The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies - Episode 07 (Updated September 14, 2023 - New Chapter Dinner Guests)

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Shhhh! Digital Media
Brian Joseph Johns

This is going to be a double, maybe even triple length episode that takes place two days after the events of Episode 06.

Warning: This story contains depictions of the use of alcohol, depictions of violence in the context of competitive martial arts, and other scenes written for a mature audience. Reader discretiion is advised.

The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies - Episode 07

Search Criteria

Bryce sat in front of his laptop computer, scanning line after line of search engine results he'd typed moments earlier. 

The results were a close match to that for which he was searching, but not quite close enough for his own liking, for he was looking for something of exacting criteria.

"Damn," he said to himself quietly in the darkness of a late night.

He sat at the kitchen table of the downtown Toronto condo that Heylyn Yates had graciously lent Wendy and himself almost a month and a half ago. They had been living there comfortably over that time, though Wendy still felt uncomfortable with the idea.

She was now in the bedroom (with the door closed) while Bryce had taken to his search almost half an hour before their current time. Previously, he'd been working on a paper outlining his theory to explain the science behind the methods employed by the group they'd been investigating. A group they'd come to know as Mentis And The Millions of Minds.

It was a difficult task for him, writing about something he'd never experienced first hand, or at least insofar as he could recall. He only had information relating to the symptoms, which in one way put him in the shoes of a Physician. Having a patient describe their ailment, and then having to didactically discern the exact cause from a multitude of possibilities. 

In a sense, what he was doing was somewhat similar to what the search engine was doing every time he typed a search term. He sat atop of the search engine's hierarchy of indexed information and his search term was merely a filter of criteria, expressed in such a way so as to limit the results. The better the search expression, the more exacting the results returned.

This essentially was what a good Physician did. They would receive a description of the symptoms from their patient, which were essentially very similar in their nature to an internet search. The Physician would then, using his expertise, narrow down all of the possibilities until he'd arrived at the one which matched his patient's case. The difference however between a Physician and a search engine was personality, bedside manner, the biological matter of the human brain, experience, intuition and of most importance, familiarity with the patient's case history. When it came to the symptoms, Bryce had sufficient information with which to have had begun, but it was his experience and intuition that were key to his pursuit of an answer. This was because he simply did not have familiarity with his proverbial patient.

In a matter of weeks, with the assistance of Zheng Ni Wong and Doctor Steven Briggs, they'd been able to narrow down the possibilities towards a working theory of how this ideology might be able to affect their victims, even remotely and sometimes over great distances, but they had yet to test their theories in a lab. They had yet to achieve consistent results that confirmed their theory. Until they'd tested their theories in the form of a series of hypotheses and experiments which either confirmed or denied such possibilities, their theory would be nothing more than conjecture. Hence, Bryce's current focus and the reason for his current internet searches.

He was looking for papers amongst the multitude of academic publications that may have been published, citing the writer's own work on such experiments, or at the very least, the results of someone else's work with the same. Although there was a certain way that academic information was categorized and organized, there was a multitude of it. Context, being the ever elusive subject matter that it was, simply remained hidden until one started delving into such papers, and that could take time. Lots of time, let alone the time it took to find those of the correct criteria.

A pair of warm arms wrapped themselves around Bryce's shoulders from behind, and he felt the gentle peck of a kiss on the top of his head.

"Hi honey? Are you coming to bed soon?" Wendy asked her husband.

"Just another half an hour. I'm really having a tough time finding the correct academic publication..." he said, his words drifting off as he read the contents of his screen.

"Why don't you get MAZ to help you?" asked Wendy, in a most innocent manner.

Bryce stopped for a moment and then stood up.

"Honey! You're a genius!" he said, giving her a hug and a kiss on the forehead.

"I'm going back to bed. Don't be up too late," she said to him, returning to the bedroom.

When she got to the door, she turned around and addressed her husband once more:

"...and be sure to remind MAZ that you're a married man!" she said, more jokingly than anything.

She then closed the door behind her and got into bed, pulling the covers over her.

By that point, Bryce had powered up Gabriel's tablet and placed it beside him on a piano friendly music stand of all things. The tablet came to life and within thirty seconds, it had connected with the condo's WIFI.

MAZ peered out through the tablet's camera and immediately recognized Professor Bryce Maxwell, Quantum Physicist specializing in Quantum Information Science and Complexity.

"Hello Professor Maxwell. How are you feeling tonight?" asked MAZ of Bryce.

"Now that you're here, I'm hoping much better. How are you MAZ?" Bryce responded, then asking the same of MindSpice's multi-billion dollar machine intelligence asset.

"I am feeling well. The WIFI connection seems to be more than sufficient for carrying my response data to you. The internet connection itself at one Gigabit should be sufficient for everything we need to communicate. The MindSpice Internet Pipeline where my intellect is geo-physically housed is running optimally which means that I'll be able to process queries very quickly. In seconds in most cases," MAZ replied to Bryce.

"I'm glad to hear it MAZ. The reason I'm talking to you now is because I'm looking for academic papers with a very specific set of criteria, especially regarding the context of their content. As well, In all honesty, I'm also talking to you because my Wife suggested I ask you, and you know how some men are about stopping and asking for directions. I don't have time to spend weeks sifting through potentially hundreds of papers, and I guess she figured (correctly) that would be the kind of thing that you'd do very well and very quickly as well," Bryce asked MAZ.

"What are the criteria for which you're searching?" asked MAZ.

"I'm looking for any academic papers dealing with neuroscience and/or the nervous system of primates, where an external electromagnetic field triggers or affects the production of hormones in the body of said primate, so as to alter its state of being in one way of another," Bryce explained to MAZ.

"Contextually speaking, by state of being you mean?" MAZ narrowed down the context.

"Alterations to pathological behaviour, especially compulsive behaviours such as bouts of hunger. Involuntary behaviours such as cardio-arhythmia, or difficulty of breathing. Finally and most importantly, alterations to psychological behaviour such as anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, or the sudden onset of sleepiness or wakefulness. All behaviours that are in some way connected to hormone production, the endocrine system and neurotransmitters," Bryce explained to MAZ.

"There are over seven thousand academic papers dealing with disease pathology that include all or some of your criteria, absent of the application of electromagnetic fields to test subjects," MAZ began.

Bryce's sudden optimism quickly fell when he heard the number of papers she'd found and the fact that none of them included any intrusive use of electromagnetic fields upon the body.

"Thanks MAZ. I guess it was worth a try," Bryce said, now feeling the full effect of the time upon his professionally retired body.

"There is however one academic paper, that includes all of your search criteria and is specifically in the context of that for which you were searching," MAZ continued.

"There is? When?! Where?! Who?!" asked Bryce, suddenly recharged with the optimism that he may have found some of the results for which he was looking.

Even the raw data from such experiments would prove valuable for he could analyze it and elaborate within the context for the solution to their dilemma.

"The paper was published on February 23 of 2017," MAZ told Bryce.

"Go on..." Bryce insisted.

"It was published at the University of Halifax, Nova Scotia, in their Neuroscience Department," MAZ continued to explain to Bryce.

"And..." Bryce pressed MAZ slightly impatiently.

"It was published by Sheldon Hidbickle, Doctor of Neuroscience," MAZ finished, indifferent to Bryce's impatience.

MAZ then brought up a picture of Doctor Hidbickle on the tablet screen.

The picture depicted a man in his late fifties, possibly early sixties who was mostly absent of hair, though what he did possess, ringed the top of his head like the matted mess of a white wreath. Of his eyes, even from behind glasses, one them seemed to possess a maniacal presence of its own, while the other sat calmly fixated on the lens of the camera that had taken the photo of him. It was a professional photo of a man wearing his Doctor's lab coat and a shirt and tie beneath, although when Bryce saw it, he couldn't help but think to himself that Doctor Hidbickle was the origin of the term Mad Scientist. After he'd had that initial thought, he did little to feed it and instead focused on the task at hand.

He downloaded Doctor Hidbickle's academic paper.

The paper was titled: 

The Short And Long Term Effects Of The Application Of Extraneous Simulated Biologically Originating Electromagnetic Fields Upon The Bodies And Behaviours Of Primates.

"Thank you MAZ. You have no idea how much time you've saved me. Now, I've got some reading to do. You have a good night. If you find anything else, don't hesitate to tell me, but you might want to conserve the battery on that tablet," Bryce thanked MAZ for her incredible work in helping him to find the paper for which he was looking.

"Very well. I'll put the tablet in sleep mode, but I'll listen for any requests from you. Good night Professor Maxwell," MAZ bid him good night.

"Good night MAZ," Bryce smiled and winked at the tablet's camera.

MAZ continued her efforts assisting Bryce nearly three thousand kilometers away in a gigantic MindSpice server center, communicating with the internet through the massive MindSpice Internet Pipeline.

Bryce picked up the laptop after unplugging it. He then snuck into the bedroom and got into bed beside his wife where he sat up reading Doctor Hidbickle's paper as Wendy curled up, snuggling beside him.

The Mad Scientist

A plate sat on the cafeteria table with a half eaten chicken salad sub, and a side of potato salad (complete with imitation bacon bits). Across from it, another similar plate rested on the opposite side of the table, though its occupants were pastrami on rye and a side of coleslaw.

Two men sat at the table across from each other, one speaking from a seemingly unending supply of oxygen, allowing him to orate endlessly without the need for breath, while the other ever so slowly leaned forward, his head looking down at his half eaten sub.

"...and then the most bizarre thing happened I tell you. It began as a tray of stem cell samples, one half of which were treated with the mRNA from the Rutherford Neuronal samples, while the others were treated from the Smith Neuronal samples. I had completely forgotten about them up until the point that my timer went off, you see I always use one of those analog egg timers you used to be able to get at knick-knack stores. So I took the Rutherford tray and placed it under the microscope and lo and behold..." the man with unending breath spoke for the whole time, just exhuming carbon dioxide exhaust as he spoke.

The other man's slow lean had begun to accelerate until he fell forward, nearly face first asleep into his food. In fact, he would have if not for the fact that he suffered from Tachophobia, the fear of acceleration and high speeds. As soon as his body reached a terminal velocity that was determined entirely by the nature of his phobia, his nerves were jolted back to life and he awoke quickly to catch himself before hitting the plate.

" seem to be focused on your sandwich. Why not just try eating it?" asked the man with the unending breath.

"I would, if I hadn't been starved of oxygen by your carbon dioxide poisoning that resulted from your unending spew of gibberish..." the man who'd nearly fallen asleep on his plate of food responded.

As it turned out, the man he'd responded to was hard of hearing, so the slightly aggressive jest was all but lost on him.

"Look at the time. Well Doctor Hidbickle, I've got to return to my Neuron samples. It has been a pleasure talking with you. I hope that we can do it again soon," Doctor Moor stood up, throwing the entire remainder of his pastrami on rye into his mouth, still chewing it as he left the cafeteria.

"Yes, it was nice talking with you Doctor Moor, but talk is a two way street, and you're taking up both lanes...!" Doctor Hidbickle responded but by the time he had, Doctor Moor was already half way out the door.

Doctor Hidbickle quickly devoured the rest of his sub, and then shoveled as many forks full of potato salad as he could into his gullet. When he'd finished chewing, he stood up and put his lunch tray and dishes in the rack. He then grabbed three kiwi fruits from the food counter and after paying for them, he headed back to his lab.

They kept him tucked away in a small corner of the University Research Center, for they couldn't afford much more for him. The truth was that he had been the son of a prominent philanthropist, who donated his entire fortune to the University upon dying from Parkinson's Disease. Sheldon, his only son, had been one of the Doctors working on research to discover a cure, and had in fact dedicated his whole life to the search for a cure in order to save his dying father.

When his father died, Sheldon gave up on his Parkinson's research and instead began pursuing a far different path from the one he'd undertaken. Most people had assumed that he'd been crushed by the loss of his father, and had never recovered, though Sheldon had his own reasons as to why he chose such a path.

The sizeable fortune his father had left for the University guaranteed that he'd not be put out of the premises, but rather, the director of research, who had at one time been a good friend of Sheldon's father, ensured that he always had a place to conduct research at the University, and even funded his research for a modest amount. Modest compared to the fortune that Sheldon's father had left for the University. And so, from that time twenty years earlier, Sheldon descended into the depths of obscurity, researching something that seemingly had no purpose whatsoever. No potential benefit for the foreseeable future. Just a tragic dead-end to the career of a one time dedicated man.

Most of his peers had written him off as a lune, though most of them truly felt sorry for him. It was never an easy thing to see a man with a purpose, defeated by the nemeses of their pursuit. So his former circle of colleagues tolerated him, but not much more, for they'd seen him as a lost cause. The tragic yet still animated epitaph of a lifetime of obsession.

The irony was, that he still had many fans and followers, researchers from around the world who were interested in his work, but they too like he had slipped off the precipice of obscurity. Hence, he had become the tallest of the lowest in the circles of Neuroscience Research. Something about which he was quite proud in his laboratory prison. Even if he'd wanted to relocate to another University or even another vocation, he couldn't, because he'd never be able to bring home what he received from the University anywhere else, and most all of what he was receiving was simply a minute portion of his father's vast fortune. It was the end of the road for him. There was nothing to do but continue his research until the end one day came looking for him as it had his father.

The door to his lab opened, and he stepped inside, careful not to stub his toe on the old four-drawer filing cabinet that still housed much of the paper copy of his research. He carefully closed the door, giving him enough room to sneak around the cabinet and the desk, and made his way through another door into an area not much bigger than a walk-in closet.

"Hello my sweetie!" Doctor Hidbickle approached a cage which took up most of the wall.

From inside of the cage, a small primate looked back at him, her eyes blinking at Doctor Hidbickle as she tried to see his hands, both of which were tucked behind his back.

"Oh, you think I have something, do you?" asked Doctor Sheldon of the primate.

The small Chimpanzee four years of age climbed over a small perch and clung to cage, trying its best to see either of his hands.

"Nothing in this one..." Doctor Hidbickle showed the Chimpanzee his empty left hand, then putting it behind his back.

The Chimpanzee jumped on the bars excitedly, squawking a bit at him. Perhaps even laughing.

"Nothing in this one either..." Doctor Hidbickle showed the primate his right hand, which of course was also empty.

The Chimpanzee gave him a look of skepticism, and then began to bounce around on the cage once again before it quieted.

Doctor Hidbickle then reached inside the cage, over to the side of the Chimpanzee's head, near its ear. With his right hand, he withdrew a juicy kiwi fruit from the primate's ear, handing it to the overjoyed beast.

The Chimpanzee quickly accepted the gift, and just as quickly devoured it, skin and all.

Doctor Hidbickle then leaned forward and began to act like he was vomiting. Another whole kiwi fruit popped out of his mouth and into his hand, which he then gave to the primate.

The Chimpanzee didn't waste a moment, quickly putting the whole fruit in its mouth, barely chewing it before swallowing it.

"What's that!" Doctor Hidbickle pointed to the back of the cage. 

The Chimpanzee looked in the direction Doctor Hidbickle pointed, giving him long enough to put the last kiwi down on the perch behind the primate.

The Chimpanzee returned her gaze to Doctor Hidbickle, who then revealed both of his empty hands.

The Chimpanzee was immediately taken aback, certain that there would have been another kiwi, as it had learned that Doctor Hidbickle always brought gifts in threes.

It then smelled a sweet scent, very close and so it began looking. After a short glance around the cage, it quickly happened upon the kiwi, which still rested on the perch. It quickly scooped up the kiwi and savoured it, breaking it down into tiny pieces and eating them one at a time until there was nothing left.

"That's my Deloise!" Doctor Hidbickle smiled and returned to his desk as Deloise returned to her favourite part of the perch in her cage.

Doctor Hidbickle sat down at his desk and checked his email messages on his computer. When he found nothing pressing, he then turned to his phone and checked his messages.

"Hey Sheldon. Its Ellen calling. Look, there's a festival down on Salter Street this weekend where they're showing a bunch of old television series at the Salter Street Theatre. I was curious if you might be interested? If you are, give me a call. Talk to you soon," asked his friend Ellen, after which she hung up.

"Hmmm. I wonder what they're showing?" he asked aloud to nobody in particular.

Deloise squawked twice in response to his voice.

"I don't think they'd admit fur people like you Deloise. No offence," he said aloud, but didn't get a response this time.

"One last message..." Doctor Hidbickle hit the one key on his phone to playback the next message.

"Hi. Doctor Sheldon Hidbickle? This is Professor Bryce Maxwell calling. I just read your paper, the one about biologically simulated magnetic fields and their short and long term effects upon the body? Well I'd like to talk with you more on your findings and maybe even look into the possibility of conducting another round of experiments. I'll try you again later or you can reach me at the number I emailed to you. Thanks. I look forward to talking with you," Bryce hung up.

"Bryce Maxwell? What would he want with me?" asked Doctor Hidbickle, standing up from his chair, banging his head on a shelf poised just above it, and then sitting back down again quickly, rubbing his noggin in pain.

His head still throbbing, he went through his email once again, and then checked his spam folder only to find that Bryce's email had been automatically sent there.

"Definitely not spam!" Doctor Hidbickle pulled out his own cellular phone and dialed Bryce's number.

Driving The Lesson Home

Kori sat in the passenger's seat of her own car and for the first time since she'd purchased it. She nervously watched the surroundings though her eyes would constantly dart back and forth between the driving hazards around them and the driver.

"So I upshift now?" asked Heylyn.

"Yes. You'll hear when the hybrid engine sounds like its straining? Its more of a feel. Just don't switch too soon or the car will stall..." Kori told Heylyn, doing her best to remain calm.

"I got my license years ago, but living downtown, I've never really needed it for much," Heylyn said as she drove.

"...Watch for that crosswalk ahead..." Kori pointed out.

"...of course there's the butterfly wings too. That kind of had an influence on my decision to hold off buying a car," Heylyn said to Kori as they continued along their route.

"How does it feel having your parents look after Warai for the next two days?" asked Kori of Heylyn.

"It feels a bit funny. Like there's something pressing that I need to do and haven't done it, but I can't seem to remember what. Not a moment goes by that I'm not asking myself: have I fed Warai? Does she have something do? Is she getting enough time to play? Am I putting her to bed too early? Too late? Its odd not having that as a constant pressure, although I'd be willing to bet that my parents are loving it. That's the kind of stuff that grandparents live for," Heylyn smiled, thinking about it.

"Where do your parents live if you don't mind me asking?" asked Kori.

"They're up by Sheppard Avenue and Yonge Street. They've got a nice home up there. Right off of the subway line, but I usually take a cab most of the time when I'm going to visit them," Heylyn told Kori.

"That's nice. Well if you had a car, you could bring dinner for them, or groceries and then cook for them there..." Kori suggested, still very nervous as Heylyn stopped early at a light.

"Is there a concert or something?" asked Heylyn, looking over to her left and seeing an immensely long line of people stretching for nearly three city blocks.

"Nooope. Not a concert. That would be the lineup for one of the city food banks," Kori told Heylyn.

"For a food bank? You've got to be kidding me..." Heylyn said, following the line as it stretched back for blocks.

"Times are pretty tough right now. Not everyone is having an easy time earning a living," Kori told her employer without sounding condescending.

"Do you ever have to use a food bank?" asked Heylyn, suddenly feeling embarrassed that any of her employees, especially a full-time employee might not make enough to eat.

"No. I wouldn't have bought this car if that was the case," Kori replied to Heylyn.

"Its a used car. Are you just trying to go easy on me and my conscience?" Heylyn asked Kori.

"No, not at all. Besides, as you probably already know, what I paid for the car and what it actually costs me to keep it running are two very different things. There's fuel and electricity, with it being a hybrid. There's insurance. There's maintenance. Thankfully I don't have parking fees as I live in a rental house, and the landlord let me use the driveway for free. I have enough headroom to afford my groceries every month, but thanks for asking," Kori responded, still being very tactful about discussing such issues with her employer.

"But all of these people aren't making enough money to eat, and this is just one food bank, right?" asked Heylyn.

"That's pretty much the case throughout the entire city. Where my house is, there's a community center and on their food bank days, there's a lineup that goes for nearly a five blocks. Its everywhere," Kori explained to Heylyn, who because of her location and her same trip everyday between home and her own business for the last ten years didn't expose her to something like what she was seeing now.

Kori could clearly see the gears in Heylyn's head turning as she looked at the food bank lineup.

"The light's changed!" Kori urged Heylyn, whose head was drawn forward and they began to drive forward once again.

"That's eye opening. Did you take this route to the café every time you've gone on a coffee run for us?" asked Heylyn of Kori.

"No. This is the extra-long route I take my driving students on," Kori smiled to Heylyn.

"Moonlighting are you?" Heylyn smiled.

"I've got to make ends meet somehow. That'll be fifty bucks please," Kori held out her empty hand jokingly.

"I've got the coffee. You're driving us back to the office," Heylyn replied as she parked the car, dropping a packaged piece of gum into Kori's open hand.

"Thank you!" Kori popped the gum into her mouth and the two of them went into their favourite café together.


Kori held the door as Heylyn walked in with the two bags of stacked coffees for those who'd requested one.

"Hi Jennifer. Here's yours," Heylyn pulled the caramel espresso out of the first bag.

"Thanks. Hori called from Kawaī kao Cosmetics. He says he'll be dropping by to check up on us tomorrow," Jennifer told Heylyn.

"Alright. Call Fay in our makeup department and let her know before you go today. Remember, Helen's working reception tomorrow. Leave a note for her too," Heylyn told her receptionist as she grabbed the bag of coffee and proceeded to her design room, Kori following behind her.

"Kori, what's the code for the intercom?" asked Heylyn of Kori as she put the bags of coffee down on an empty table in her design room.

"#363 will get you the intercom. #300 will get you the directory and you can speaker phone someone else," Kori told Heylyn, as Heylyn dialed the intercom.

"Everyone who ordered a coffee from our favourite café, come pick it up at my design office before it gets cold!" Heylyn spoke into her phone, her voice coming out of the internal office speaker system.

"Thanks Heylyn. Alright, I've got some employee reviews to do," Kori said as she picked up her coffee.

"Enjoy. How are you adjusting to your new role as Human Resources Manager?" asked Heylyn.

"It was a little intimidating at first, but I'm really starting to enjoy it. I still kind of miss building the sets for photo shoots, but this is a step in the direction I wanted to go," Kori replied.

"Alright. Get to it then. Bye," Heylyn waved as she grabbed her own coffee and returned to her latest design project.

One by one, or sometimes in pairs, her employees would arrive to pick-up their coffees until there were only two left. Monique's and Braden's.

Heylyn picked up her phone and dialed #363 again.

"Monique? Braden? Come get your coffees!" she spoke into the intercom and her voice boomed out of the speakers.

A few moments later, both Monique and Braden arrived at the same time.

"Thanks Boss. You have no idea how much I'm craving this Vanilla Mousse Espresso," Monique said to Heylyn as she grabbed her specialty coffee from the table.

"Me too. There's nothing like a Caramel Machiato to give you some pep for the last half of the day. Thank you," Braden added.

"Have you two got a minute?" Heylyn asked them.

"Sure thing. What's on your mind?" asked Monique, Braden opening his coffee and taking a sip as he leaned on one of her design tables.

"Yeah, what's up?" asked Braden.

"Do either of you two ever struggle with your bills? Or your monthly expenses?" she asked them.

"Not me. I'm living a good life. I'm building assets, thanks to the condo you helped me to purchase. I've got a healthy savings account, and my chequing account brimming at the top. I'm doing fine," Monique replied.

"Things get a little tight from time to time, but all in all I'm doing quite well. I imagine that after I've worked here for some time I might be able to progress to a position with more pay and other opportunities for advancement," Braden told Heylyn candidly.

"So neither of you has ever had to use a food bank while you've been employed for me, have you?" asked Heylyn of them.

"No. Not me," Monique replied first.

"Same here, but that's only because you bought me two months worth of groceries, filling my freezer with enough chicken and veggies to make stir fries for the next two years. If I hadn't had that, things might have gone a little different and I might have had to rely on a food bank every once in a while," Braden admitted.

"Did either of you know about these long lineups at the food banks?" asked Heylyn.

"Not me. I didn't even know they were getting so much business," Monique replied.

"I've seen a few lineups downtown. I'd say that's a sign of the times. Things have changed since the pandemic, but there's a bit more to it than that. Maybe somehow connected with Mentis or even Habus?" Braden responded.

"Maybe. Its a hard pill to swallow the fact that this is happening here where I grew up," Heylyn said to them honestly.

"At first, I took it personally. I was embarrassed as an employer that I might not be paying my employees enough to survive. I think I've clarified that not to be the case, but still. This isn't right. This is the place that I grew up, and seeing this now, from how I remember things when I was a little girl, this just doesn't feel right," Heylyn admitted to them.

"Every time I haven't felt right about something, I did something to change it. So we're going to do something about this. I don't know what, but we're going to do something about it. Something to at least help," Heylyn told them.

Heylyn pulled her phone again, and dialed #363 for a third time.

"To my employees here at West Meet East International, I'm calling a meeting immediately. The only exceptions to attendance are Trey, who I believe is doing a photoshoot right now, and Jennifer, who is helming the reception area. Everyone else go to the meeting room and we'll start ASAP. Thank you," Heylyn spoke into the intercom once again and her voice emerged throughout the building.

"The mighty and powerful Oz has spoken!" Braden responded to Heylyn's announcement, drawing a bit of laughter from both Monique and Heylyn.

"Don't expect this to be a long one. You've still got lots of work to do in the back receiving that shipment from our fabric supplier. Some of which I'll be needing very soon by the way," Heylyn replied as she grabbed her purse and her coffee and led Monique and Braden out the door of her design room and down the hall to the meeting room.

Meeting Expectations

Heylyn stood at the front of the room before the horseshoe shaped boardroom table at her place which was at the central part of the exterior of the curve. Surrounding her on either side were her senior and management staff. Near the end of the large horseshoe shaped table were a few rows of chairs, on each of which sat the employees of West Meet East. Heylyn interrupted their banter as she started the proceedings.

"I know that all of you were very busy prepping for our Autumn line, but this short interruption shouldn't be an obstacle. The reason I called us here today, impromptu was to address a growing situation, one of which I just became aware," Heylyn began.

"If this is about Kori's hair again, I'm with the side rooting for her green, platinum, red, midnight colours," joked Dylan, one of the touch-up CG artists, drawing a bit of laughter.

"No, Dylan. This isn't about Kori's hair, but Kori was a factor in this. You see, when her and I were out to get the specialty coffees that so many of you love from our favourite local café, I got a glimpse of a  food bank lineup at a downtown community center. One that I haven't seen in a long time as my travels between home and work don't take me that way," Heylyn replied, pausing for a moment.

"My point is, they seem awfully long, and that got me thinking that there's more to this picture than meets the eye," Heylyn said to them.

"Now first of all, do any of you rely upon a food bank?" asked Heylyn of her employees.

Nobody raised their hand.

"None of you? Honest? Or are you just afraid to say anything?" asked Heylyn, ensuring that her employees were being honest.

"If we say yes, does that mean we'll be getting an increase?" asked Lisa the network tech, which then prompted everyone in the room to raise their hands, which was followed by a good bit of laughter.

"No, it doesn't mean that you'd be receiving an automatic increase. It does mean that I'd have Kori look into or hire a consultancy to evaluate what a sufficient cost of living wage is in these times," Heylyn responded.

"I'm glad to know that I'm paying you all enough, maybe some of you a little too much..." Heylyn looked to Lisa and Dylan, drawing some more friendly laughter between employees.

"So my reason for pointing this out, is because I'd like us to do something about it. To become involved in being part of the solution, not part of the problem. Any suggestions," asked Heylyn of her staff.

"Why don't we do a food drive?" asked Fay, the make-up artist.

"That's a good idea, but I think that with our line of business, that having food items in here en masse wouldn't be practical. Any other suggestions?" Heylyn responded.

"Why don't we just raise money, like we do for any other charitable event we hold?" asked Ebtissam.

"We could do that. Add an organization that supports food banks to our after-show party charity portfolio. Any other ideas?" asked Heylyn.

Nobody else raised their hand or added any response to Heylyn's question.

"Alright. I'm going to have Valerie and Fiona brainstorm this and see if they can't come up with something. In the meantime, just keep on doing the same good work that you've been doing all along and if you have anything to add, let me know," Heylyn addressed her employees as she drew the meeting to a close.

"That was short and a lot less dramatic than I was expecting!" Monique said Heylyn, rousing a laughter from the room.

"But it got right to the point," Valerie said pragmatically in support of Heylyn.

"It did, but I was expecting a life changing pep talk from the leader of our little oasis in the city. All we got was a quick comfort check and a little pat on the back," Monique responded, once again drawing more laughter.

"Oasis? That's an interesting way of putting it," Heylyn replied.

"Its true. West Meet East is sort of its own little oasis in this city," Kori added, agreeing with Monique's observation.

"I'd have to agree there, but there are many others out there like us. Like islands amidst a turbulent chaos. Before I started here, I was in another such oasis. One that got devoured by a much larger company: Werner-Goldstein. I can only hope that my former coworkers were lucky enough to happen upon a similar oasis," Fiona told them, elaborating a bit on her former employment.

"There's something happening out there right now. That's for sure. I'm just glad I'm here, safe and sound from it so far," Dylan agreed.

"I think we all are, aren't we?" Lisa agreed.

"So some of you have noticed these life challenges as well?" confirmed Heylyn of her employees.

"I'd say so. Its pretty obvious that something's up. It's way beyond me, so I just do my little part here from this corner of the world without making too many waves," Florence, one of the seamsters added to their conversation.

"Well, its good to know that you think of West Meet East as an oasis. Let's try to keep it that way, together. Thanks for your time, you're dismissed and have a wonderful day if I don't see you again today," Heylyn finalized the meeting and waited with Monique and Valerie as the meeting room emptied.

"So we're not the only ones in the know then, are we?" asked Valerie rhetorically.

"I guess not. The only thing I'd have to ask is just how much they know?" asked Heylyn of Monique and Valerie.

"You mean about Mentis and his unique methods of indoctrination?" confirmed Valerie.

"Who else?" posed Heylyn.

"You seem to forget that Torman got into both Valerie and I in much the same way, albeit much, much quicker than Mentis' methods alone from the sounds of it," Monique reminded Heylyn of their encounter with Torman on Treadwater Island.

"From what Bryce was telling us at the last meeting, getting into someone isn't really an accurate statement. It seems to be more altering a person's hormone production, though I'd doubt that Mentis would have any scientific knowledge about what's going on under the hood," Heylyn described from what she'd understood of what Bryce had stated.

"I couldn't help but overhear the word: Mentis," Sienna stepped forward into the meeting room.

"How long have you been standing out there?" Heylyn turned to ask Sienna.

"Long enough to hear that you seem to know a lot about something plaguing me, and a few others I know," Sienna told Heylyn, looking down as she did.

"I'm aware of your recent challenges Sienna. Are you saying that you're familiar with something called Mentis?" asked Heylyn.

"Should we go and leave you two in privacy to discuss this?" asked Monique, suddenly feeling like they were infringing upon something they shouldn't hear.

"No. I'd prefer if you all heard this. I have this feeling that you're probably a bigger threat to this thing than most people are willing to admit," Sienna addressed them confidently.

Heylyn looked to Monique, and then to Valerie. She then returned her glance to Sienna.

"So you've encountered something or someone called Mentis?" asked Heylyn.

"When all this began, when I began to find myself living in the sudden onset of emotional extremes, the people between here and home on the streets and the subway would often speak of something called Mentis," Sienna explained to Heylyn.

"Voices in your head, or actually spoken words by them?" confirmed Heylyn.

"Both... Sometimes I'd hear them from within my head, as if the sound was bypassing my ears and going direct, and sometimes through my ears, the natural way, " Sienna admitted to Heylyn.

"Might this be a biproduct of the medication you're taking? Like auditory hallucinations?" asked Heylyn of Sienna.

"Dammit. The one person I'd hope could understand what it took for me to approach my boss and talk about this..." tears began to flow from Sienna's eyes.

"Sienna, I do understand, probably more than you know, but these are questions that others more qualified than I am will ask you. If you can't keep it together, and talk about this honestly when you're being asked questions like that, you're better off remaining reclusive and we'll find others to help us take this on. No harm done," Heylyn leveled with her.

"You know, when I first tried to report this to the Police, asked me the same thing, about the medication. They suggested that it was more a matter to take up with my Doctor rather than law enforcement. All I had was my account and no evidence. So I went out the next day and bought a pocket recorder from a second hand store, who thought it was a cell phone. I put batteries in it, and got a really sensitive microphone for it, and took it with me between home and work, every time I needed walk to the subway and while I was on the transit. This is what I got..." Sienna said to them, drawing her pocket recorder from her purse and pressing play.

"...isn't Heylyn. Your boss is Mentis... No more hair dresser... You're a druggie now... Your boss isn't Heylyn anymore. No more Heylyn. No more hair dresser... Your boss is Mentis... You're a druggie now... A street walker..." the heavily amplified sound of the recorder played back for more than three minutes, each time, the taunting coming from a different person, both men and women alike.

"Is this what it sounds like when you hear the voices directly into your head?" asked Heylyn.

Monique and Valerie turned to each other, as if it were familiar to them by some means.

"That's what it sounded like... when Torman..." Valerie began explaining, suddenly overwhelmed with the recollection of her experiences as a result of the overbearing and dominant Grier Torman.

"That's... I remember it... all of it..." Monique's face drew into an intense fearful frown.

"How often do you experience this. The spoken attacks of that kind?" asked Heylyn.

"Every day. To work and back home again. When I'm here, in West Meet East though, its non-existent. Nobody in here does it, at all. Its like walking into a different world," Sienna explained to them, relieved to have presented her evidence.

"What happened when you went to the Police?" asked Monique.

"Well, as I said, they told me that it was a matter I needed to take up with my Doctor, and maybe try adjusting my medication, but the medication is specifically to help me cope with the voices, and the stalking..." Sienna began.

"What about the people tormenting you? Did that change at all after you went to the Police?" asked Valerie.

"Drastically. The people who tormented me in public would often do so according to cultural group, often mixing colour symbolism into their harassment. As if they were trying to throw me off balance to one side, against specific cultures. As if they were trying to make me appear to be racist any time I asked them to stop it," Sienna described the process her tormentors had used upon her.

"Are you?" asked Heylyn.

"What? Racist?! No! Damn no!" Sienna responded in shock.

"I have to ask. If you're planning on helping us to take this on, these are the kinds of hurdles you're going to encounter," Heylyn explained to her.

"I've already been going through this for almost a year now and keeping my job together, and you're condescending me about it!" Sienna responded angrily.

"I know its difficult to speak about it, but then what happened?" asked Heylyn, recalling how she'd helped Monique and Valerie through the same ordeal years earlier at Treadwater Island.

"Then, the other side would torment me. Those who see themselves on the opposite side culturally of the groups that were tormenting me before. They began, and this consistently continued like a tennis game between the two different sides, where I was like the tennis ball, being battered by one side, and then the other, and so on. Each side trying to gain their share of bias or opposition from me. Either seemed to both excite and infuriate them more and more," Sienna explained to them.

Heylyn was suddenly no longer there in the meeting room. She was now a fifteen year old Ai Yuanlin Ying, standing up firm and straight on her right leg, her left leg folded with her foot tucked into her inner-right thigh. Her hands were clasped before her, palm to palm, fingers upward as Jinn Hua walked carefully around her, examining her stance.

"Your sense of balance is impeccable Butterfly, but it has one fatal flaw..." Jinn Hua said as she walked past Ai Yuanlin Ying's shoulder to arrive at her rear quarter.

"The favouring of one leg over the other..." Jinn Hua then quickly struck as Ai Yuanlin Ying's knee, but she was too slow, for the younger woman moved her knee, folding it at just the right moment to dodge Jinn Hua's sudden attack.

"Your balance is only surpassed by your apparent ability to anticipate the moves of your attacker. You may have considered  the left to right of things, but you never considered the bottom to top..." Jinn Hua moved slowly and non-threateningly, easily pushing Ai Yuanlin Ying off balance.

She folded into a roll and was back up on her same leg in the exact same stance she had fallen from.

"Why choose one, when we have two?" asked Jinn Hua of Ai Yuanlin Ying.

"Because you asked me to start from my favourite position. This is it. Like a proud flower reaching for the sky, from which the Butterfly springs into the air," the young optimistic girl spoke proudly and confidently.

"And what would that same Butterfly be if she only flew with one wing, when she so clearly has two for a reason?" asked Jinn Hua of the proud young girl.

Again, Jinn Hua moved quickly, almost too quickly for Ai Yuanlin Ying to see. She spun, lowering her body and extending her leg, sweeping it along the floot at the solitary leg keeping Ai upright. When Jinn Hua's leg swept towards Ai's one leg, Ai jumped once, exactly enough to jump over, and not more. Jinn Hua's foot swept under her and Ai landed perfectly maintaining her balance.

"We've already demonstrated one weakness to your one legged stance. A slow and unassuming attack can come in even under the radar of someone as empathic as you, young Butterfly. Let's take a look look at another weakness. One you may have figured out if you've been paying attention in your studies," Jinn Hua addressed Ai Yuanlin Ying as she continued circling the girl.

Jinn Hua once again moved with sudden speed and fierce conviction, sweeping her foot at Ai's one upright leg holding her entire body up. When Jinn's leg swept towards Ai's, she once again jumped up and over it, landing perfectly balanced again.

This time however, Jinn Hua cartwheeled directly to Ai's adjacent side, starting with another foot sweep and with the same leg too, but coming from the opposite direction. Ai jumped again, barely making it and landing on her foot safely. She swayed ever so slightly to keep her balance as Jinn Hua cartwheeled to the other side again, attacking with a foot sweep in the opposite direction as her previous. Ai once again jumped, her toe clipping Jinn Hua's leg. Ai landed again, swaying from side to side to keep herself vertical. Before she'd gotten her balance again, Jinn Hua had already cartwheeled to the other side and was now mounting the opposite attack once again.

This time, Ai couldn't make the jump and Jinn's leg pushed Ai off balance considerably in mid-air. Ai landed, her balance already bias over to one side by far. When her foot hit the floor, she struggled with every ounce of strength and effort she could to regain her balance, for this wasn't just about being able to stand, but it was about her favourite stance and dignity under the assault of her instructor. She was determined that because it was simply an elegant and inspiring stance, that it should win. 

The universe favoured the aristically elegant and inspiring after all, didn't it? How could such fragile  and inspiring creatures in the myriad as Butterflies exist if not? Ai asked herself.

She began to realize however, that she was already too far swayed to one side to maintain her balance, though she held on until the end. When the end did come, she was too far gone to even roll defensively to regain her previous stance. Instead, she fell full force to the bleached hardwood floor, her breath forced out of her as she hand winded herself upon impact.

Jinn Hua stood back as Ai slowly regained her breath and got back onto both her feet.

"Why! Why can't something so inspiring and elegant win! It shouldn't be that way!" Ai responded to Jinn Hua, as if her instructor had somehow destroyed an aspect of the universe Ai had wanted, that could never be replaced.

"There has to be balance, especially when you've got two legs. If you'd have spent all of your life on one leg, perhaps only having started out with one to begin with, then this lesson might have gone differently. But you have two, and if you can't learn to use them both, and keep each of them firmly on their own side of your balance, then you will surely fall every time someone plays you to either side, Ai Yuanlin Ying," Jinn Hua explained to her Butterfly student.

"The glass is always half full!" Ai shot back at her instructor.

"When you're drinking water, maybe, or juice, it is half full, and half empty," Jinn Hua responded.

"When but I'm negative if I look at it that way! I want to see the world full of so much potential! A glass half full!" Ai responded, on the brink of tears.

"What if that were a glass of poison you'd accidentally been drinking? Better for it to be half empty, rather than half full, would it not?" asked Jinn Hua with her own Zen twist.

"A Butterfly's wings are two for a reason. And you my little Butterfly, have two legs, so start using them and stay your balance. The world hasn't lost any of its lustre in finding balance. You're more liable to protect something delicate with a modicum of balance rather than overabundance. When standing up, be on your two, and be swayed only when it keeps your balance," Jinn Hua explained to her

The Temple slowly faded from her vision and Heylyn was suddenly in the meeting room at West Meet East once again.

"Your credibility is like an issue of balance to those who'd question it. If you're too far swayed to any side, then on the way back to the center, your momentum might serve to push you to an extreme. Like a swing that keeps going higher and higher on each side, until you fall off on one of the sides. That sounds like what these tormentors of yours were trying to do. To throw you off balance and towards an extreme. If you've taken to reporting their psychological assaults upon your person to the authorities, they're likely trying to ensure that your credibility is destroyed, so they can continue their attacks in secret, without the scrutiny of the authorities," Heylyn explained to Sienna what she'd recalled and learned from Jinn Hua's lesson many years ago.

"That's just like what Myung said at our last meeting? The woman who works for the courts?  She mentioned that in serious criminal cases, jury tampering sometimes takes on that sort of an attack. Where the defendants secretly seek to discredit the jurors by throwing them off of balance in any direction that would be a violation, in order to cause a mistrial. The defendants after such an effort could then attempt to have the whole case thrown out of court," Monique explained what Myung had told her about with regard to actual case history.

"In this case, it sounds like they're trying to discredit Sienna because they know that she's not going to put up with their abuse and that she'll be a problem for them. She's the kind of person we need on our side. This is the first witness to this activity we've had on our side," Valerie agreed with Monique's observation.

"If she's calm and rational one day, and then anxious and manic another, they're likely trying to setup behaviour patterns that convince others that she's not at her own driver's wheel. That someone else is driving her, and that person will take the credit for all of her efforts, simply because Sienna's more manic states aren't consistent with her usual personality. Therefore they'll use that to justify that she's simply not herself. That she's inhabited by someone else," Valerie continued.

"Which according to Bryce's theory is just absolute nonsense and more like a scam than anything, albeit an intricately involved one. This must be how they've managed to keep the whole thing quiet for this long. Long enough for it to be a serious threat to civil society," Heylyn observed.

"Yeah. Like if someone started counterfeiting your fashion lines, and then attacked you using the same methods. If they succeeded, and you started behaving in manic ways, then they'd use that as a justification that you were no longer you, and that they were more you than you are. They'd then use that justification to steal your fashion company from you, and your fashion designs," Valerie explained the process she'd gone through after years of therapy in the aftermath of Treadwater Island.

"So we can assume that every time Mentis' followers are about to attempt something of that nature, that there will be an attempt by their group to trigger a manic episode or an anxiety attack from their victim before they do. That sets up the paradigm of alternating imbalance they use on their victims, trying to bounce their victim from one side to the other, back and forth, trying to knock them down on one extreme or the other," Heylyn responded.

"To tell the truth, that's not why I remained outside of the door after the meeting. It was because I go to group therapy every Tuesday night. There are a few people at my group therapy sessions who've undergone similar experiences. I thought that maybe you could talk with them?" asked Sienna of Heylyn.

"You know that we're not the authorities, don't you Sienna?" asked Monique, knowing full well that Sienna knew nothing about their superhero alter egos.

"I know, but I have this sense that you're fighting the good fight," Sienna confessed to them.

"We're talking the good talk, but there's still a lot of action that needs to be taken, and yes, I'll speak to your friend from your therapy sessions. Why don't we meet next Tuesday after your session. We can take about an hour and discuss this in more detail. Sound good?" asked Heylyn of Sienna.

"It does. This is why I stayed behind after the meeting. I'll come see you later today and make arrangements. I'm glad I talked with you about this. All of you," Sienna turned and left.

"Alright Sienna. Keep it discrete, and take care of yourself," Heylyn bid her employee farewell.

When Sienna had left the room, their conversation continued.

Surmise And Summary

Heylyn, Monique and Valerie were the only three left in the meeting room. They'd stood from their chairs preparing their things before they returned to their respective offices when Valerie spoke.

"That's just what we needed. Zheng, Doctor Briggs and especially Bryce will be encouraged by the fact that we might have another first hand account on hand," Valerie suggested.

"This is my employee, and she's not going to be a lab rat," Heylyn responded to Valerie's implication.

"Relax! Do you honestly think that Doctor Briggs or Bryce would use her that way?" Valerie responded, surprised that Heylyn would question her statement at all.

"I don't, but that still doesn't mean that we should be reckless in suggesting such a thing," Heylyn responded to Valerie.

"Valerie and I know far more about that than most people. We've been there before. Not in the exact same way, with a million psychically connected narcissists out to gas light us or anything, but still, pretty close. Besides, I think there's some questionable elements to her account," Monique spoke up.

"Like what? And why didn't you bring them up when she was here?" asked Heylyn.

"You have to figure, if she was in public when she was being harassed, and she got it all on audio recording, then that means that everyone else around her could also hear the same tormenting. It could be directed at anyone? Why don't they get all bent out of shape?" Monique responded, asking the million dollar question.

"Because... There must be a reason behind that. A good reason. Something that we're not aware of. Yet. That seems to be the case with every victim, and there's more than one victim of this," Heylyn responded.

"There is another explanation, but I don't think that its one that you're going to want to hear," Monique replied, though not enjoying the feeling of backing her own mentor into a corner.

"Try me," Heylyn responded, apparently unphased by their conversation.

"When I was a kid, my cousin used to come over some weekends for sleepovers. One night, when everyone was asleep, I got up and and went down to the kitchen to get a snack. I could barely reach the cupboards without a chair, so I generally didn't get snacks from the cupboard. However, on that night, my parents had left the cookie jar on the kitchen table, which as you know, would be like leaving the safe open in a bank. So I got up on one of the chairs and managed to get the cookie jar open..." Monique continued before Valerie interrupted her.

"...And you were how old?" asked Valerie.

"I was eight years old. I was a small kid though," Monique said to them.

"And your point is...?" continued pressing Valerie.

"I'll get to it. Just give it a bit. So, I grabbed a bunch of cookies, actually I grabbed them all in a big handful and took them up to my bedroom. I ate them all that same night, and brushed the crumbs off of my bed so I could sleep," Monique continued her story.

"The next day, it was a Sunday, and my parents had already been up for two hours, when they woke Viviane, my cousin and I up. Viviane was in the guest room and I had my own bedroom, so she didn't know about the cookies. We ate breakfast together that morning, and my parents asked us if we would like desert, which was unusual because we 'd never had a desert with breakfast before," Monique enjoyed the retelling of her childhood memory.

"So we both said yes of course, being right at that age when getting as much sugar as possible into your gullet was a high priority. Well, my parents being the natural born investigators that they are, went right for the cookie jar. They went to grab some cookies for us, and low and behold, there were none, or so I thought," Monique smiled deviously.

"So what happened?" asked Valerie, now interested in what she had to say.

"Before my parents even said anything, I immediately said: it wasn't me, while Viviane, my cousin, didn't say a thing. She was just anxiously waiting for the desert, while I was rife with guilt having eaten all the cookies myself. Well as it turns out, my parents had refilled the cookie jar. When I'd said it wasn't me, they turned to me to ask me what it was that I didn't do? I came clean and told them that I'd eaten all of the cookies the night before, so I was immediately caught in my own lie, because it was in fact me who ate the cookies. I reacted simply because I was feeling guilty for not having left any cookies for anyone else. When I was unknowingly presented with the crime... I broke out of guilt... Get my point?" Monique finished her story.

"So you're saying that the only reason that Sienna reacts to this social abuse is because she's guilty of something?" Heylyn confirmed what she was hearing.

"Well I did eat the cookies after all, so I reacted when presented with the crime," Monique reiterated her point.

"...and all of the other people who are being victimized by Mentis and his followers are also just reacting because they're really guilty of a crime?" Heylyn confirmed that she was hearing Monique correctly.

"Sounds like a fair assessment to me, though I'm not saying that I think that Sienna is guilty," Monique replied, seemingly contradicting herself.

"So she's not guilty because you know her, and every other victim of this cult are guilty?" Valerie challenged Monique.

"I have another possibility for you three, though it might be a bit mind blowing," Bryce stepped in through the door, Zheng and Doctor Briggs behind him.

"How long have you been out there?" asked Heylyn of Bryce.

"About thirty seconds. Long enough to hear the tail end of Monique's cookie story and everything else beyond that," Bryce smiled as he continued in to the room.

"This is an unexpected pleasure, and well timed. Make yourselves comfortable if this is going to turn into an impromptu meeting. You know where the coffee and tea is. Make yourselves at home," Heylyn invited her guests in.

"Good to see you again, Heylyn. Valerie. Monique," Zheng smiled and walked over to her usual spot at the horseshoe shaped table.

Doctor Briggs closed the door to the meeting room and made his way over to the buffet area to make a tea for Zheng and a coffee for himself.

"I know how much you love building up drama before you give us your opening statement, but would you care to elaborate on your mind blowing possibility?" asked Heylyn of Bryce as she too went over to the buffet to make herself a Chai Latté.

"Actually, its two possibilities. Bryce's and the one that I'm going to share with you right now," Doctor Briggs replied, bringing Zheng's tea to her at the table then going back to make his own coffee.

"The reason that the victims of this cult are reactive, when others aren't is simply because we all have a cookie story. All of us. That goes a long way to shaping our conscience and how we respond to situations where we're presented with a crime or accusations or anything implying some form of responsibility. Some of us have reconciled our cookie stories, while some of us haven't. In many cases, that's what therapy is for, especially cognitive therapy. It gives patients a chance to talk about things that are difficult to talk about, with the help of an experienced and qualified tour guide," Doctor Briggs explained to them as he finished stirring his coffee and returned to Zheng, taking a seat beside her.

"Not to mention that some of those situations have nothing to do with guilt or responsibility," Zheng added, having discussed the matter with Briggs many times before.

"You're saying that the reason that some people react is because we all have aspects about ourselves that make us uncomfortable?" Valerie took her seat.

"Sure we do. Secrets. We all have our secrets. The things we typically share with our partner if we have a partner. Things we only share with people to whom we have a consensual bond. These secrets which are neither good nor bad, form the basis of a bond between couples. In one way you could say that its the very measure of bias we have for someone. The secrets about each other that we share. Now its not wrong or criminal if a couple engage in some intimate activity in the privacy of their own home, yet the details of such intimacy, if they became public knowledge, would likely be very destructive to the emotional state of the couple involved, unless of course they agreed to something of that nature. My point being that those are intimate secrets that aren't criminal at all, but if others started goading the members of that couple about their activities, after enough time experiencing such treatment, they would likely become very reactive. Even bitter. With the public and anyone else they perceived to be persecuting them about their private moments. Maybe even with each other. The reasons that people react when presented with statements that are in some way contextually meaningful to their life, from a complete stranger, that goes way beyond the possibility of criminality. We're talking psychology here. It's kind of like attacking someone by hitting their sensitive parts, without it being detected by others, or making strong parts sensitive after repeated exposure to adversity," Doctor Briggs described the concept for them.

"So from what you're saying, these people who react from this cult's activities aren't reacting out of guilt?" confirmed Heylyn.

"Exactly. Most of us are conditioned, thanks to dogmatic ideologies that state that the only reason that someone reacts to the statements of another is the result of guilt in some form or another. Most people in the public, not really contemplating the subject don't give it much consideration or even question it when presented with such a assertion. After enough time passes without anyone questioning it, theories like that become part of a assumed social truth. That is, if enough people believe it, then it must be true, without there being any empirical evidence or objective data to support such an idea. If you see someone react to another's statement, then guilt must be involved. That ignorance spreads and becomes the means by which one group of people can have power over another, and it often does become that. The more a group of people can provoke reaction from a victim, the more the victim is dehumanized by the group. The more the public becomes convinced that there's issues which can be used to elevate the group and lower the status of the victim. Even commit crimes against them without being held accountable for such actions," Doctor Briggs explained to them.

"A collective phenomenon?"  Bryce added.

"Yes, but not to be confused with the political eidos of collectivism itself. Collective in the sense of a group of people, each member of which gives up their own individual ability of rational thought and the courage to question unquestionable actions in order to rely on the safety of the group, and to benefit from the collective status of the group, rather than being responsible for their own status alone. One of the first casualties of such groups is the very idea of the individual. That's likely why identity seems to be such a target of Mentis' ideology," Doctor Briggs replied to Bryce.

"Now what about your theory Bryce?" asked Heylyn.

"My theory? Well, one of the reasons that I came here today with Zheng and Doctor Briggs is because I've recently enlisted the help of a researcher. One who can help confirm the theory I put forth at our last meeting and a few meetings before," Bryce explained.

"Who if you don't mind me asking?" asked Heylyn, taking a sip of her Chai latté.

"Doctor Sheldon Hidbickle. He's a Neuroscientist and a researcher at the University Of Halifax. I checked up on him with a colleague I have at Dartmouth. The same University that developed the latest SQUID technology. Superconducting Quantum Interfering Device. Magnets that help isolate and measure minute magnetic fields at the Quantum scale. Well as it turns out, Doctor Hidbickle ordered a bunch of these SQUIDs for his own lab in Halifax. He's been using them to measure neural activity in the nervous system of a primate. A primate to which he's been applying simulated biologically sourced magnetic fields he recorded from various sources," Bryce explained.

"Huh?" Monique responded, completely lost.

"Doctor Hidbickle managed to get a series of recordings using SQUIDs he had installed at their on faculty MRI unit. He basically recorded activity in the nervous system associated with the communications between the brain and the endocrine system that leads to alterations in hormone production in primates... and humans. He then took those recordings and fabricated a magnetic field from them, to which he exposed his primate test subject, who then responded in ways consistent with having the same hormone production in its own body. Blood tests were done on the primate and it was found that the primate did indeed have a highly altered homeostasis from being the experiment took place, meaning that the magnetic field likely triggered the production of said hormones in the body of the primate," Bryce described for them.

"So how does that relate to your possibility of what's making these people react, when everyone else around them is calm as can be?" Monique asked Bryce, still ardent to defend her own theory about what was behind people's reactions to the cult.

"Well, if we can prove that it is biologically feasible that a primate's endocrine activity can be remotely altered by biologically sourced magnetic fields, that is, magnetic fields originating from the nervous system of another primate, then we can prove that its possible for one primate to affect the homeostasis, ie the balance of hormones in the body of another. When their hormones are off balance, they're more prone to react with varying degrees of extremity. They can even be primed to a point to go off like an emotionally unstable bomb, just as a result of hormonal imbalances caused by external magnetic fields originating from other primates," Bryce explained to them.

"So you're saying that the victims are selected by the cultists to react in advance?" asked Heylyn.

"The cultists likely conduct their activity before any situation in which the victim is going to be in public and accessible by the cult members who conduct the harassment on the street. If this theory is correct, then precisely what you just said. They're targeting them in advance, selectively. They're deciding in advance who is going to react, and who isn't," Bryce's face was firm, neither a smile nor a frown.

"Where does Mentis fit into all of this? His cult members?" asked Heylyn.

"With the help of Doctor Hidbickle's data, we're going to prove that Mentis and his members have created the equivalent of a WIFI network that connects the nervous systems of people, specifically his cult members and the people they're forcing into their circle. That might explain how they're able to get information about their victims with uncanny accuracy and without any detectible means of spying on them. It would also make this cult very powerful in the sense that it could operate both by the equivalent of ESP, and technology. We already have evidence that they're coordinating themselves using both means of communication. Both their communications system that results from their interconnected nervous systems, and those in their cult who are employed at companies whose resources they've commandeered to assist the efforts of their cult. Specifically, we've found this to be companies, like MindSpice, who have a large part of infrastructure devoted to the internet and cellular communications," Bryce folded his arms as he finished.

"I don't think Gabe would appreciate such an accusation being made about his mind child you know," Valerie responded to Bryce's charge.

"He'll be sensitive to the issue, but the truth is that in all likelihood, this cult has infiltrated many companies already. That doesn't mean that the whole company is bad or operating under their control. It only means that there's likely a few employees, probably those in administrative positions, especially in IT who are sharing client information with their fellow Mentis cult members or using the cellular network to monitor their clients illegally," Bryce leaned forward in his chair.

"Well considering that they've been blaming the Chinese community for illegal spying, this is a breath of fresh air. Let's see how quick they respond to our counter claim when we present them with the evidence," Heylyn responded, having felt the social pressure of the accusations leveled at against her culture.

"Historically speaking, there has been a lot of evidence for this aspect of our biology. A side effect, though if our experiments prove successful in confirming our hypothesis, the implications to the development of humanity could be staggering. That would certainly affect our ideas about evolution as well," Bryce explained.

"The potential for the misuse of this knowledge is what's at stake. It appears that this knowledge has been present throughout humanity in various forms. For instance, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reiki, Yoga and various other practices. Its obvious that its found its use as an instrument of healing, but it seems that in the hands of some, it becomes a weapon, and this is the danger," Zheng pointed out.

"We're coming to a point in society where this must be scrutinized by science, objectively and discussed rationally before it's too late. We're already seeing this knowledge being misused in an ideological sense by these Mentis and Habus fellows, to create a very destructive and tyrannical form of social order, benefiting only their chosen while erasing those who don't make the cut. When this ideology combines their abilities with technology, it will have the potential to quickly spiral out of control. For instance, what happens when this ideology arrives at the level of heads of state? This is only leading in one direction, a direction that will lead to an ideological invasion and an attempted regime change around the world, though not for any good, such as protecting the environment or solving world hunger. My analysis as a sociologist leads to the findings that such an ideology spreading throughout the world could destabilize the world economy, trigger regional conflicts and eventually lead to the possibility of world war three. Just keep your eyes on the news and you'll see that very possibility unfolding right now. This isn't another cold war. It's not Communism versus Democracy. This is an entirely different matter and one that could determine the ultimate fate of humanity or even its demise," Doctor Briggs explained to them intensely.

Heylyn got up from her chair and took her cup, placing it in the dishwasher.

"Where are you going?" asked Valerie.

"This is obviously a very serious matter that I've got to attend to right now. I'm going to see an old friend," Heylyn said as she gathered her purse from the table.

"You're welcome to stay here and use the facilities if they'll help you in any way," Heylyn said to her guests.

"Thank you, but we're on our way to the University faculty. We managed to arrange for some lab time through the alumni. We're going to be conducting experiments with the help of Doctor Hidbickle from his end of the country. We'll be working directly with the data and Bryce will act as a consultant to Doctor Hidbickle, guiding him on the use of the SQUIDs to localize any Quantum phenomenon such as the possibility of entanglement being a mechanism involved in this WIFI of the nervous system," Zheng explained to Heylyn, though she looked to everyone in the room as she spoke.

"Thank you for keeping us in the loop, Bryce, Doctor Briggs, Zheng. We'll see you at the next meeting, where I'm presuming that you'll share the findings from your experiments?" Heylyn asked them.

"That we will, if we can get through the analysis of the masses of data we'll be getting from the SQUIDs," Bryce responded.

"We could get MAZ's help on that. She'd probably excel at that once we define the parameters or what we're filtering," Zheng suggested.

"Good idea. Thanks for having us Heylyn," Bryce replied to Zheng and then looked to Heylyn.

"Alright. Valerie. Monique. You two have the fort while I'm gone," Heylyn said walking for the door.

"But I've got a lunch date with Trey," Valerie responded quickly and defensively.

Heylyn turned around and gave Valerie an intense glare.

"Its important! Really!" Valerie responded, protecting the first ever romance that she'd ever experienced in her life.

"Alright then. Monique, you and Kori have the fort until I get back. Have a good day everyone," Heylyn said as she left the meeting room.

She made her way through the hall and into the open office area, waving to a few people as she did. When she arrived at the reception area and became focused on the widescreen television that graced the wall across from the reception waiting area and reception desk.

"Hi Heylyn," Jennifer greeted Heylyn, though she was already engrossed with the news.

Another conflict had struck in Europe amidst the already existing war and growing tensions in the region. In other parts of the world, there had been two mass shootings. The first, a shooting in North America for total of thirty seven casualties, seventeen of them dead. The second, in southern Europe where seven people had died.

"It looks like its already begun..." Heylyn said to herself quietly.

"What's that Heylyn?" asked Jennifer in a chipper voice.

"Oh. I said I'll be out for the rest of the day. Forward my business calls to Monique and Kori, and if my parents or Warai call, forward it directly to my phone," Heylyn said as she approached the door.

"Alright. Will do," Jennifer waved to Heylyn as she opened the door.

"Bye!" Heylyn said as she left the building.

A Change In Arrangements

Valerie arrived at her office and quickly pulled out her makeup kit. After she'd sat firmly in her chair, she began touching up her makeup, readying herself for her lunch date with Trey. When she went to apply her mascara, that's when she happened to notice an envelope laying on her computer keyboard.

She put her kit down and took the envelope up in hand, carefully opening it. From within, she retrieved a hand written note and promptly read it:

Dear Valerie,

I can't make it to our lunch date today. Something has come up and I had to leave for the day. I will explain everything to you the next time that I see you.


Valerie crumpled the note up and tossed it into her waste basket in a fit of disappointment. She then got up and stormed out of her office, closing the door behind her as she made her way to Studio C.

When she arrived at the door, she checked the light above it to make sure that there wasn't a photoshoot in session. When she saw that there wasn't, she opened the door without knocking, only to find a dimly lit room.

On the far wall, the last set they'd used for their garment photoshoot update for the website was still setup. A lighting boom hung over the scene, which she nearly tripped on as she advanced. In the far corner, over the Studio C sound system, a mystical song was playing in the background as she searched for any signs that Trey might still be in the building.

"Huh. He's not here," Valerie said to herself.

Just as she turned to leave, her phone rang.

"West Meet East. Valerie speaking,"  Valerie answered the phone cordially.

"Hi Valerie, its Jennifer at reception. We just got a call from Mary Carson, the head of sales at our material supplier: Fabrication. You remember her right?" asked Jennifer.

"I do. What can I do for you... and her presumably," Valerie responded, still a little agitated over her broken date.

"She's at a meeting they're hosting at the Residence Hotel. She said she'd like you to attend lunch with them and say a few words at their meeting as one of their VIP clients," Jennifer informed Valerie.

"The Residence? Alright. I'll do it, now that my lunch plans backed out on me. Where do I go?" asked Valerie.

"Go to the front desk and tell them you're there to meet Mary, and they'll give you directions to the meeting room,"  Jennifer gave Valerie the instructions.

"Ok. I'm on my way now. Thanks Jennifer," Valerie hung up, leaving Studio C and made her way to the front doors of West Meet East.

She bid Jennifer farewell as she left and then quickly flagged a taxi. Within seven minutes, she was walking in the front doors of the Residence Hotel. She made her way through the lavishly decorated lobby and over to the front desk where a man greeted her.

"Hi, how may I help you?" he asked her.

"I'm here to meet with Mary Carson. She arranged a meeting for today?" inquired Valerie.

"Just let me check the reservations and... oh, here we go. Alright. Here's your door card. The meeting is up on the penthouse floor," the man told her, handing her a room card.

"Alright. Could you call and tell them that I'm on my way up?" asked Valerie.

"Will do. Enjoy your time here at the Residence Hotel," he smiled at her as she left for the elevators.

She waited for all of ten seconds in the foyer just outside of the elevators before one arrived. She quickly got in, and managed to leave before anyone else got in. She once again quickly checked her makeup in a mirror from her purse, and then when the elevator arrived, she stepped out, looking for the correct room.

When she found it, she knocked at the door and waited, for she'd have preferred to have been introduced by someone already there rather than to just barge in. After a minute of waiting, nobody answered, so she knocked again, this time only waiting for thirty seconds. She pulled the room card from her purse and put it in the card slot and the door lock clicked as it unlatched.

She pushed the door open and stepped inside the dimly lit room, which was decorated with flowers and from the door, she saw a bowl of fruit  adorning the buffet further in.

"Hello?" asked Valerie, checking to see if anyone could hear her.

She walked further into the room along a front hall and after she passed a bathroom, she arrived in a lavishly decorated bedroom. From behind her, she felt two warm hands on her hips, which startled her and she spun around to meet her assailant.

She was pleasantly surprised to see Trey's face.

She quickly planted her lips to his, dropping her purse in the process and she quickly turned, backing into a wall while they kept their embrace.

They moved along the wall, slowly undressing one another, as they kissed, until they arrived at the bed in only their undergarments.

Still maintaining the pressure between their lips, they got into bed and under the covers, where they discarded the remainder of their garments...

An hour later, the two of them lay naked atop of the bedding, the bowl of fruit on Trey's stomach, from where they hand fed each other pieces of stawberries and cantaloupe in the air conditioned cool air of the room.

"One more?" asked Trey softly.

Valerie just opened her mouth, gently kissing his finger as he delivered the delectable fruit to her lips.

"Well I have to admit that you truly had me fooled," Valerie said to him accusingly.

"Impromptu. I think that's one of my favourite classical pieces of music. You know it?" asked Trey.

"I think so. Can you hum it for me?" she asked.

"Ta da da da daaaa. Ta da da da daaa daaa..." Trey began his best rendition of the musical piece.

"No. I don't know it..." Valerie responded, truly not being able to make out any of his notes.

"Its like an improvised piece in classical music. I like improvising," Trey opened his mouth, waiting for another helping of fruit from her.

"And you're very good at it too..." Valerie said as she gently placed the fruit in his mouth.

They lay quietly for a moment, staring at the ceiling.

"I have to get back to work. Monique and Kori are expecting me," Valerie said to him, poutingly.

"Let's have a shower and we'll leave together. I have the room for the night, so we could theoretically sleep her and leave for work from here tomorrow. Together," Trey suggested.

"What ever are we going to do for dinner?" she asked, batting her eyelashes at him innocently.

"I was thinking we could order in. Spend the evening in bed together. Maybe rent a movie, or..." Trey began.

"Or enjoy each other..." Valerie leaned over, kissing him and knocking the fruit bowl over at the same time.

Another forty five minutes later and they left the room together and made their way to the underground parking. From there they made their way back to West Meet East as they were watched.

"We got everything, didn't we?" asked a Tony from behind the wheel of a luxury sedan.

"We sure did. Mentis will be very pleased..." Mike said from the passenger seat.

A Way Into West Meet East

Mutano sat comfortably in his antique overstuffed chair. A jade coffee table and four matching end tables bracketed the rest of the living room furniture elegantly and spaciously. The afternoon sun pierced the spaces between the vertical blinds, sending shafts of voluminous light laterally throughout the room.

He held his glass of whiskey carefully, fingers always below the whiskey line, for he wanted the nectar warmed to the same temperature as his body. Each sip of the bitter yet complex ambrosia would enter gracefully into his body, sliding over his tongue and through his palette on its way to ever so gently burning his throat.

He contemplated many things at this time. For instance, how far he'd come to be at this point. At this place. So close an ally to one half of the greatest of mysteries of the universe, and yet so adverse to the other. He had chosen his path, or rather, followed the path of his ancestors through their wisdom. And yet, these steps he'd taken to become what he was, had occurred only because of his sheer will and resolve towards action. To treat with fearlessness in the darkest of places that none dared visit upon their soul. From the body he'd left, to the one he now inhabited from his perspective, he'd become the nemesis of nemeses.

The stereo system before him, perhaps amongst the best that money could buy, for to him money wasn't something to be slaved over. It was fleeting and had no loyalty or bias for anyone. It was the most cruel and harsh of lovers, in bed with you for the night, and gone before you awoke the next day without so much as a gentle kiss on the cheek or a softly whispered goodbye.

He'd spent his vast fortunes many times over, only to rebuild his empire again and again, and many times from nothing. Yet this time, something in him had changed, for he'd lost his murderous appetite for young virgins, for he'd become something new. Something different. As they'd say in the temples of Shinto back in Osaka, from whence his empire had sprung: the monster in the man, can become the man in the monster over night where the spirits tread and peace is lurking behind the glare.

Peace he'd become, and yet on some nights, his blades did thirst. For with the stroke of each blade, her soul would become his. Extending his age and life. Yet in his peace, he'd come to realize that they were for his consumption, so that he may commit himself to the end and the means. He had already progressed to godhood to some degree, for he'd transcended life itself and continued his task in the body of another man. He knew that he would eventually do the same again, and become the living embodiment of the dragon of darkness. It was his fate. It was his destiny.

As he ingested another waft of whiskey, the music consumed him. The words transcended their original context to become significant to him and his destiny, much like the spell cast upon those whose ears were graced by music of their choosing, and sometimes where it fell by chance. 

All while the whiskey burned his throat.

There was a knock at the door, and Mutano could tell, for he was very sensitive to changes in air pressure and sound, and when the knock had been announced through its echo, he heard its off tempo cadence as he listened to his choice piece.

He gave it another three seconds, before he lowered the volume.

"Enter," he said aloud, in a pronounced and present voice.

Tony stepped into the room first. Something important to him as he'd always felt himself in charge, with him being the driver. Mike followed behind him, though certainly no less confident in his stride or stance.

"What is it gentlemen that you'd interrupt me during one of life's greatest pleasures. The consumption of fine whiskey and the sultry sounds of mystical music?" asked Mutano, leaning forward in his chair to place his whiskey glass on the jade side table.

"Jack was dead on. We got them..." Tony said, holding out an offering to Mutano.

"We think we got them. To tell you the truth, we still need Jack to do an identification on the girl. If we got her, then we've got a way into West Meet East," Mike added, already competing with Tony for the credit of their latest venture.

"This is progress both in my request and that of our great master. How did you achieve such a hefty goal so quickly without being discovered. I am assuming that you weren't discovered?" Mutano looked to them intensely, still leaning forward uncomfortably in his chair.

For a moment, his discomfort became theirs, and they shuffled their stance quickly.

"No. They definitely had no idea that we were keeping an eye on them. We were snug and secure both with our own eyes, and through the cameras we setup in their hotel room," Mike offered.

"Thanks to my choice work on where to place them," Tony responded, looking back Mike with a smirk on his face.

"Regardless, this is good news. Now lets get some feedback from the man who can confirm the woman's identity, shall we?" asked Mutano as he moved his fingers over the keyboard on his phone to send a message.

"Jack's here?" confirmed Tony.

"Yes. Why he's down the hall in another condo..." Mutano had barely finished when a smug older gentleman with balding hair and a pony tail pulled tight at back of his head emerged into the room.

Jack was as muscular in his new body as he'd been with his old. Perhaps even more so given the disadvantage of height. His physique was impeccable for a man of his age, and his tanned face and body dropped years from their estimate.

"Hey! Crazy Tony!" Jack gave Tony's shoulder the old one-two, in quick succession.

"Jack! I can't believe its..." Tony responded uneasily.

"Dan. I'm Dan Gurdy now fellas. Lets keep my cover," Jack smiled from behind Dan Gurdy's face.

"How are ya Dan?" asked Mike of Jack, though he'd never met either Jack nor Dan.

"Is this a new guy or something? He's got beginner written all over him. You better whip him into shape!" Dan told Tony, clearly taking sides with familiarity.

"Whoa! Hold on a second. I'm in fine shape. In fact, I'm in such good shape that I got this," Mike snatched the handheld video player from Tony and handed it to Dan/Jack.

"How do I use this... Oh, right here. The big fat play button!" Dan laughed, patting Tony on the back, and then the blubber on his gut as pushed the play button on the video player.

Dan watched the video carefully, as Valerie stepped into the hotel room. As she approached the first camera, the shot suddenly jumped to the perspective of another hidden camera, this time one just slightly ahead of her and to the other side. She stepped back when a blond haired man grabbed hold of her from behind. They then became entwined with each other in an immaculate kiss as the blond man pushed Valerie into the wall. They slid along the wall, towards the bed, slowly undressing each other along the way. When the last of her clothing was gone, and she was in nothing but her undergarments, Dan responded.

"That's her. That's definitely Valerie!" Dan said, more focused on her parts than her face.

"And if I can't thank both of you for this astounding accomplishment, then which of you is truly deserving of the credit? For a reward is certainly deserved in this instance," Mutano asked Tony and Mike the trick question.

"I don't know... I drove and pointed out all the good places where the cameras should go and Mike... he kind of..." Tony began.

"Tony totally sat around eating a pizza slice he'd picked up on the way... and did nothing to help me while I rigged the room. He just blah blah blah this and blah blah blah that..." Mike responded when he heard Tony's attempt to put down his part in their scheme.

"The only reason that Jack... I mean Dan... recognized her was because of my choice positions for the cameras...!" Tony responded defensively.

"But it was me who set them up and made sure they were undetectable," Mike replied edgily.

"You grabbed all the tools and the gear! What was I supposed to do? Ask for your permission?" Tony challenged Mike.

"Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Clearly you worked together to achieve this goal, and I am willing to overlook this competitive banter and to reward each of you... with thirty percent each of the total reward. Forty percent will go to Dan for his work in identifying the girl," Mutano responded to them, knowing instantly how to play them all.

"We deserve a little more!" Tony began.

"No! I deserver a little more!" Mike responded.

"You will all receive your due in time, lest you question the authority of an Osaka Dragon?" asked Mutano.

Tony folded first. Readily bowing before Mutano, showing him the blackness of the hair on the back of his neck.

When Mike saw this, he knew he was done and followed suit.

"Very well. I accept your humble repose. Now, I would like to task the two of you with taking a copy of this video to Mentis himself," Mutano smiled, leaning back in his chair once again.

"You want us to go to Mentis?" confirmed Mike.

"Would you do me a favour and pour me a glass. The bottle is on the shelf over there," Mutano pointed Mike in the direction of the whiskey bottle.

Mike did as he asked, stepping over to retrieve the whiskey bottle. He took it up in hand and quickly glanced at the label. Amidst the Japanese characters, were a pair of tiny snakes, each entangled with one another as they fought. Watching over them, a larger serpentine dragon was poised, its jaws open and ready to strike at both.

Chills ran down Mike's spine as he brought the bottle over to Mutano, and began to pour it carefully ensuring that he did not spill so much as a drop.

"A fine pour, and a studious sense of observation I see," Mutano held his glass up before taking a tiny sip.

"Now I would like you to take this means of entry into the world of West Meet East over to Mentis. In doing this, you will have gained his trust in the hopes that we might soon work together, and bring to an end this masquerade of butterflies and dragons, for the real dragons must soon enter the stage, right Jack?" Mutano smiled as he leaned back in his chair.

"How right you are," Dan/Jack smiled, folding his arms as he stood before the man who would become their destiny.

Sifus And Student

From the outside, the building appeared dilapidated. Even neglected, though it was anything but. The plants had overrun the walkway to one of the few Temple Pagodas, appearing like brown and green veins etched into the cobblestone path. Heylyn's bright pink top and red skirt contrasted overgrowth, as if some great flower were making its way through an field devoid of other colours.

She arrived at the large wooden door, noting two large jade statues standing side by side at the door, each facing the other in serpentine form: they were dragons with the wings of butterflies.

"Its been a while since I've been here..." Heylyn said as she grasped the handle of the great hardwood door.

When she pulled the handle, the door remained firmly shut. She contemplated grabbing it with all of her strength, which in all truth, was immense. She could have easily hefted the handle from the door and then punched her way through the hardwood, but that would be the desecration of a Temple so connected to her childhood and early teenage years. Somehow, she was also aware that such an attempt would be futile, for even the Butterfly Dragon could not enter into the Temple without first passing some regimen of her worthiness.

She stepped back, examining it only to find that it was almost identical to the same Temple she'd visited in GuangZhou, China, though without ever having visited it, she'd have never known this fact at all.

It was tucked away in a community rife with parks, and many owners walking their dogs (leading many to ask who truly was walking who, for it was the people that picked up after the dogs, rather than the other way around). The Temple was to be found in this modern urban maze of overgrowth, people and their pets, keeping it well hidden in Metropolitan Toronto.

The Pagoda itself rose up into the air. Its ancient earthquake-proof architecture built solely on a solitary wooden pillar, upon which the entire shell of the Pagoda's structure rested. If the earth moved, then the Pagoda would shift with the motion. If the wind howled, then the Pagoda would move with it rather than resisting it, hence confirming Bruce Lee's (and his daughter's) assertation: be (like) water my friend. A fact that only architects and carpenters could truly appreciate because Pagodas existed long before the invention of metal nails, as many of them were built without. As with a tree in the wind, no roots move. No branches remain still. Even North America's railroad systems were built with this fundamental truth in mind, and by a multitude of Asian settlers as well: no tracks move, while the train is in motion.

"So here I am now, after all of these years, trying to solve the mystery of how I gain access to this temple?" Heylyn, stepping into her Ai Yuanlin Ying shoes asked herself.

Her first thoughts were that it was probably the statues themselves. She examined them carefully, perhaps much like something from an Indiana Jones movie, looking for any mechanisms or inner workings that might lead to the inner structure of the temple.

When she tried to turn one, like she'd seen in many movies (and she assumed in video games), she found that it was only a jade statue set upon the carefully laid cobblestone foundation. It teetered precariously when she tried to turn it, almost careening into the ground if not for her quick reflexes. She quickly caught it, not considering the fact that it might be thousands of years old itself. 

"Alright. No more playing Indiana Jones here..." she said as she quickly repositioned the jade statue as closely as she could to where it had been before she'd tried to turn it.

She began to closely examine the statues themselves, and found that the dragons each had two different expressions on their face. Almost like Athos and Pathos, the two faces of comedy and tragedy. One was joyous while the other was woefully adverse. Each a commonly found icon in theatrical performances.

She then directed her attention to either side of the doorway, looking for any clue that might be connected with their facial expressions. She examined the door frame carefully, inch by inch until she found absolutely nothing.

"Hmmmm. So, never mind Indy. What would Lara Croft do in this situation?" Heylyn asked herself, again examining the statues carefully.

When she looked closely at the wings of one of the butterfly dragons, she observed a pattern that she'd recently seen somewhere before.

"That's odd?" she said to herself as she moved over to examine the other's wings.

There, she found the same symmetrical pattern, although one of the cells, on the wing, which was triangular in shape, was directed at a slightly different angle than that of the other.

"So where have I seen this before?" she asked herself aloud.

When she carefully examined the cobblestone, she found that the pattern matched the wings of both dragons, on each side of the path. The two triangular cells outlined a center cell, at which Heylyn squatted down to get a closer look.

"They're definitely pointing at this brick," she said as she began trying to pry at the edges of the cobblestone.

"Doesn't it figure! I just had these nails done!" Heylyn pulled back when she thought that one of her manicured nails broke.

She then noticed a trowel laying just off of the path, hidden by rust and dirt. She quickly grabbed it and began prying the brick out of its place on the path. After much effort, she managed to haul it out of its position, and there within she found a heart shaped golden key.

"And that is how its done!" she exclaimed upon finding the relic.

She quickly snatched it up in hand and searched the door for a keyhole.

"There doesn't seem to be a keyhole?" she exclaimed as she pulled at the handle. 

The door suddenly and without explanation, opened without its previous resistance as she tugged it.

She quickly replaced the key back under the brick, and then replaced the brick itself, suddenly understanding the puzzle.

Inside of the temple, she could smell the scent of incense in the air as she slowly walked through the front hall and towards the doors to the training chamber.

The hall was lit dimly by the glow of paper lanterns, which spanned the hall spaced every three bu (about four and a half meters or fifteen feet).

"Someone's definitely caring for the place," Heylyn said as she walked beneath the lamps, the candles within apparently having been lit by someone.

The sigils and scrolls that had once adorned the walls, the very ones that she recalled from her youth were now covered with dust and withered away. There upon upon the wall, she spotted the scroll upon which she'd composed her first piece for the guzheng, one of the projects her Sifu had engaged her with during his middle years of training.

She approached it, putting her fingers to it as if in touching it, that might restore it to its former youth. Her touch did no such thing, except to remind her of the fleetingness of youth.

She continued through the hall, arriving at the door to the training chamber, which she hefted open against the resistance of its rusted hinges. They creaked as the door opened, stopping once they'd reached an angle that violated both their age and neglect.

The chamber was surprisingly well lit, and it was apparent that someone had restored or was in the process of restoring it to its former glory. Heylyn continued through the chamber to its center, where she recalled the many exercises her Sifu had used during her training. Many of them to strengthen her body,  but the majority of which were in fact to strengthen her mind. Her sense of spiritedness and resolve.

She glanced to one of the corners, and  spied a square wooden table with three chairs adorning its edges. From a doorway nearby, Jinn Hua emerged with a tray of tea and three cups.

"I take it one of those is for me. Who's the other one for?" asked Heylyn.

"I've another guest today Butterfly. One that I hadn't anticipated so much as I had your visit," Jinn responded to her student.

"Thank you for thinking of me. I mean with the tea and all..." Heylyn stood in the center of the training chamber watching as Jinn Hua set their places on the table.

"It is nought but my responsibility as a good host. You know this Butterfly..." Jinn replied, placing the tray before one of the settings, presumably her own.

"I remember. To bring good favour upon your temple..." Heylyn recalled.

"Our temple, Butterfly. Ours. It isn't just about what we can hope to receive by humbling ourselves before our guests. Its about centeredness. About finding our place in the way of things. Ensuring that we are giving something back to those who make up our circle, or those who are merely passing through," Jinn took her place at the table as Heylyn stood watching her.

"You need some landscaping done by the way. Maybe a little dusting too?" Heylyn noted to Jinn.

"All in due time. Every day is a progress in some way on a journey without a destination. The plants will be pruned and shaped to our desires. The dust will be culled and the stains will be gone. The temple will be restored once again and all in time for us to perish having done as much, only to be left to the generations to come," Jinn Hua's voice was neither joyous nor melancholy.

"I have news for you. News for..." Heylyn began.

"...For the Dragon, do you? Weltherwithsp was expecting you. As it turns out, the Gem and the Dragon have been having their own discussions. In the very same field where you met," Jinn Hua informed the Butterfly.

"I expected that her path would be similar to mine," Heylyn replied, unphased by the idea that the Dragon of her childhood dreams was now tutoring Warai.

"Similar, yet different. No two paths are the same, though their destinations might be," Jinn Hua waited for her second guest.

"Please join us Butterfly. Your place is here, ready for us to discuss these matters that you bring forth," Jinn Hua invited Heylyn to the table.

She walked over to the table and took her place at the setting that Jinn Hua had indicated, putting her purse in her lap. Not a moment later, Ms. Huệ Vân emerged from the same doorway through which Jinn Hua had entered, a plate of hot dumplings in her hands.

"Zheng, Doctor Briggs and Professor Maxwell have enlisted the assistance of another Doctor. A neuroscientist from the East coast whose own research may hold the key to uncovering Weltherwithsp's mystery. The mystery of humanity's greatest obstacle..." Heylyn quickly summarized the purpose of her visit.

"Secrets long in the hands of others of a far less vitriolic nature, who's intent it never was to rule or lord over humanity. Only to guide, and now that same knowledge has fallen into the hands of those who'd use it for the secret conquest of the world. At a time when technology is at a level where they can combine it with their methods to overtake humanity. To become its greatest threat," Jinn Hua expressed the fact that she was already aware of the most recent developments.

"And how is it that you're already aware...?" asked Heylyn of her mentor.

"Because, for years, perhaps centuries now, the same threat has been carefully infiltrating the very groups who held that secret for so long. One by one, in our naivety and complacency, we've each fallen victim to said threat. The ties that bound us no longer secure, for between us and amidst our numbers, the enemy lurks," Ms. Huệ Vân stated.

"Butterfly, we've been in a state of decline now for a few centuries, while other powers in the world grew to their apex. Though we've remained mostly silent among the population, we were eventually discovered. We were followed. We were observed. Analyzed. And then we were infiltrated. Sister turned against Sister. Brother turned against Brother. Trust, a great risk and peril to us all became a lost virtue, and our enemies used it against us again and again," Jinn Hua explained to Heylyn who listened in shock of what she was hearing.

"...until there was only a few of us. The mentors of the world, sharing this hidden knowledge with those we'd carefully selected for their worthiness, for even amidst our students, were hidden our enemies. Some had been infiltrated without even knowing of the risk they posed, for our enemies can hide behind the eyes of anyone without their knowing..." Ms. Huệ Vân continued where Jinn Hua left off.

"Spying upon us... Looking out into the world from the body of another. Through their very own eyes. Within these people, can hide many, each looking out through the eyes of their host, like the passengers in a vehicle looking out through the windows. Each a member of this great threat, who use their hidden vantage points amongst from within and unbeknownst to their hosts," Jinn Hua explained to the Butterfly.

"It was through the eyes of some of our students through which we were unknowingly infiltrated. All of this began at a point long ago, though none are able to pinpoint when. Their methods spread to others of their ilk, and before long they outnumbered us, using knowledge we'd been in possession of for thousands of years against us, without our even knowing," Jinn Hua added.

"So how did you overcome this? How are there any Butterflies left at all?" asked Heylyn, perplexed and horrified by Jinn Hua's and Ms. Huệ Vân's revelations.

"We did what we had to in order to survive, though it violated our own moral and ethical code..." Ms. Huệ Vân explained to Heylyn.

"And what was that?" Heylyn pressed them for the answer.

"We started doing as they did, though we limited it to our own numbers, and swore never to visit these methods upon anyone outside of our own circle, for to do so was to violate another person in the most vile and treacherous of ways," Ms. Huệ Vân spoke after she'd taken a sip of her green tea.

"To look out through the eyes of another human being is a great spectacle to behold, and one that could teach humanity a great many things when it comes to cooperation and harmony, but our enemies used such an ability for nothing more than personal and collective gain, and most certainly for conquest," Ms. Huệ Vân continued.

"We on the other hand drew a line. A line we will never cross, though there was a time that I feared that might be the entirety of our undoing. However, since a certain Butterfly come under our tutelage, my despair became hope. And now, with the appearance of the Gem, we might once again rise to overcome this threat before they destroy humanity," Jinn Hua paused for the Butterfly.

"So you're saying that you can see through my eyes...?" asked Heylyn of Jinn Hua.

"Of those of us who've mentored you consensually throughout your life, we all can when need be," Jinn Hua assured Heylyn, who was shocked by her statement.

"For how long?" asked Heylyn, confrontation very much written all over her face.

"Since you had reached maturity. At the age of sixteen, during your Rite of Ascension, you also became another part of our many eyes and ears. As the guides we are, you are also," Jinn Hua recalled that very day.

"I can't believe that you... violated my being in that way!" Heylyn exclaimed to Jinn Hua, though she intended that Ms. Huệ Vân should also bare the brunt of her angst.

"Butterfly, consider that our nemeses draw no lines or ethical boundaries when it comes to who they inhabit or when. If it wasn't by us, then at some point, without our knowing, you might have become inhabited by them as well. They'd have never admitted any such thing as we have just explained, and they'd deny it until the very end as they have with every single one of their victims. Yet, they flaunt it frequently, for their victims are nothing more than objects to them. Dehumanized drones for the interest of groups like Mentis' and Habus'. In our having done so and according to our own code, we might have saved you from them, while we guided you in ways that you'll learn with time and wisdom," Ms. Huệ Vân pleaded with the Butterfly, her voice wielding an edge.

"I've always been aware that you were with me Jinn Hua, and I've always welcomed it - but I draw the line at using my own senses as a vantage point from which to secretly spy on your enemies for this secret war of the ages," Heylyn retorted, her words flowing without pause.

"My enemies, Butterfly? Allow me to correct you. They are our enemies. Make no mistake about that, for if they wielded the same ability against us through you, then your life may have taken a very different turn, and we might not have come this far at all. The Butterflies of the world might be on the brink of extinction, joining their Dragon kin along the way," Jinn Hua corrected Heylyn without  so much as blinking an eye.

"Butterfly, this is not so much about us, as it is them. Something we should focus upon, for when in your life have we truly interfered despite having such access to your being? Are you not a successful and independently minded woman? Do you not have enough wealth for which you've worked hard to attain? Are you not responsible for the well being and prosperity of many simply because of the position you enjoy?A responsibility that you seem excel at, for you inspire those in your midst. If our enemies had gotten to your first, they would have subjugated you, and possibly taken everything from you if our roles were reversed. Your hard work and dedication would be credited to them, and they'd wear it, flaunting it just the same as any of your runway models wear your designs at a show. You would slowly cease to be known, and possibly even cease to be, while they bore the credit for everything you currently are. Know your enemies Butterfly, but certainly and above all else, know your friends," Jinn Hua continued, sounding like a mother who'd been confronted by her own daughter upon her loss of innocence.

"Butterfly, there are really two worlds. There's the world you see here and now that we in this room are experiencing. A shared experience that is only our own. Only we know about this moment, and what happens here is part of our own secrets. Just the three of us. What happens here is ours so long as none of us are host to our enemies," Ms. Huệ Vân began.

"And then there is the other world. The world of the awareness of mind. The world which those who step into the bodies of others, can know of the happenings through their eyes and ears, without ever truly knowing whose eyes and ears they're experiencing the world of mental awareness through," Ms. Huệ Vân continued.

"Much the same way that a thousand people can look into the life of someone else through an internet connected camera. Our enemies have taken ancient knowledge and appropriated it towards these ends, able to connect to the bodies of others much like internet users are able to connect to chat room cameras. Many people looking out at remote surroundings through one pair of eyes..." Jinn Hua used the metaphor of technology rather well for someone who delved in it seldom.

"Where we are welcomed by you, our enemies hold no boundaries over who they'd infringe upon. Anyone is a likely target, though some are more easily infiltrated than others. Some walk about in their life never knowing that at any moment, a thousand other people could be looking out through their same pair of eyes. Secret stowaways without permission or consent, and only there to plunder. They have no idea whose eyes they're looking through, in just the same way that a driver might have difficulty knowing exactly what kind of car they're driving if they're only able to make such a determination from inside the car itself..." Ms. Huệ Vân explained to Heylyn.

"Unless of course that person happens to look in a mirror and sees themselves," Heylyn responded.

" which point all those looking out through their eyes would also see the reflection of whose face and body they're inhabiting," Jinn Hua added.

"Without having seen their host, the people occupying the body of their host can take anything from them and their life. Throughout history, our enemies have played a vicious game of stealing the claim of credit for great works of art, and for knowledge of the sciences that was truly begat by others, whose bodies they occupied to steal the secrets of their scientific work. Their works of philosophy and art," Ms. Huệ Vân continued after Jinn Hua had spoken.

"These two worlds have always been separate, and the vast majority know not of the second world. The world of the awareness of mind, and the ability of some to step into the bodies of others to see through their eyes. To hear through their ears, and now, to scry upon their very thoughts," Ms. Huệ Vân continued, stopping only when she'd finished speaking to accept the tea that Jinn Hua had placed before her.

"That is not entirely true, for they cannot do it to just anyone. Those to whom they can are rare, but not rare enough that would make their threat meaningless," Jinn Hua told Heylyn, whose face was even more pale than it had been before she'd sat at the table.

"Why don't you just step into the bodies of those who've become... infected by... them?" asked Heylyn, struggling to find a solution to a problem that could not be solved with negotiations, martial arts, super powers or any other means of which she was aware.

"The moment we cross that line, we become no different than our enemies, though with some of our students, we tried. We really did. When we stepped into the bodies of students who'd been infected, our enemies turned it into a social spectacle of status. Fortunately, the dedication of our loyal students helped us through that time. It is through those students that we managed to regain our lost footing. One of those students was you Butterfly Ai Yuanlin Ying," Jinn Hua explained to her student.

A student that somehow had managed to maintain the balance of life to achieve so much, and yet still commit herself to the Temple Of The Butterfly Dragon, their virtues and their duties in society.

"Our traditions and virtues are to protect, to guide and to heal where need be. Our foundations grew from the origins of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reiki, Vietnamese and Korean healing arts, Yoga and Pranic healing as much so as they did from the regional martials arts systems of Southeast Asia. We may be warriors, but we are also guides and healers. Our enemies do not possess the same virtues, nor do they cherish the values we hold true. We have protected you from so much Butterfly, but at a cost. That is something which I will always regret, but I will never question my judgement in having done so," Jinn Hua continued.

"You are rarely ever alone Butterfly. Only when you want to be, for even we would never take away the preciousness of your privacy. There are lines over which we will never step. Perhaps that day might come when that heart of yours so battered by loss, might flourish and find a true and lasting love once again. One that will not be taken from you so tragically in a distant land in the night," Jinn Hua encouraged her student.

"A day that also might never come, lest she learn to trust those protecting her," Ms. Huệ Vân added, taking another sip of her tea to wash down her dumpling.

"Your friends. The ones looking into the science of these mysteries. You must be certain that their discoveries never fall into the hands of our enemies, who've coalesced to become Mentis and the Millions of Minds, in their latest incarnation, or to Habus Macill for that matter. If those secrets they uncover do, then humanity may be lost for good," Jinn Hua told Heylyn.

"Then how are we supposed to defeat them?" asked Heylyn, now overwhelmed by what she'd learned from Jinn Hua and Ms. Huệ Vân.

"Are you not the same Butterfly that defeated Alomera Constanza Zekestes at the height of his power? A foe you defeated even when you were absent of every one of your powers. Every one of your secret abilities. That's because you defeated them together. Your allies and yourself. With every life you've ever touched and graced with your good nature, and some of those who you've calloused, but who still cared for you regardless. They are your strength. Be their guide, and your mentors will be yours. We'll be there when you need us the most," Jinn Hua assured Heylyn, leaning forward as she spoke.

"Zheng, Doctor Briggs, Bryce and this new fellow they've brought on board are going to need you more than ever. But you've some powerful allies. You have Alicia, your best friend. A woman who who overcame her sense of self loathing and lack of confidence to become one of the most successful Doctors and Researchers in her field. You have Monique, who walked into your life in her early twenties, a literal rags to riches story of success, who has taken that opportunity and given back to her city and much of the world a thousandfold. You have Valerie, a woman who was once confined to the misogyny of her boyfriend Torman. Your trust in her changed her life, and she became not only a hero, but a success in your company. You have Butterfly Aikiko, whose loyalty and virtue are hard earned. She traveled a difficult journey to be by your side, Butterfly. One you'll never know, nor truly understand. You have Kori, a loyal and dedicated employee who has proven herself through and through. She's protected your greatest secret, while helping you to shoulder a responsibility with which you seem to doubt yourself at times, though she thinks you a fine parent. You have the Man-Dragon, who has protected our greatest asset and humanity's greatest hope, bearing a weight upon his shoulders for years that most could not bear for a moment. Most importantly, you have the Gem. Warai. A little girl who embodies the innocence and optimism of every child in the world. It is through her that the very power of life wells within. The two Dragons, the two fates are the whole of the final challenge humanity will face. One that no other universe has passed and lived on. Will this be the end, or will you and your allies make it the beginning?" asked Jinn Hua, looking at the Butterfly and seeing her own greatest achievement and aspiration.

Scientific Experiments

Bryce sat before a workstation system, a series of monitors displaying feeback information via a number of different informtions channels available to him.

The screen to his right contained a graph, which depicted a Fourier frequency domain series, derived from the magnetic field sensor output from an MRI device almost two thousand kilometers away. Frequency in this case had been derived from the field frequency and amplitude detected by the highly sensitive SQUID units installed at the said MRI.

Bryce's center screen contained data that had been processed from the input sources in Halifax, to derive (when combined with other channels) a series of Feynmann Diagrams, each of which contained a fractional linear probability scalar, the sum of which would add up to exactly one. They represented the current Quantum arrangement of localized matter in the various parts of the nervous system of the Primate being examined. 

Bryce could very quickly look at this screen, and through his experience, he'd be able to tell if Quantum Entanglement was indeed taking place, whether it be at the level of like particles, such as entangled electrons between Doctor Hidbickle's Biomagnetic Field Emitter and the target areas of the nervous system of said Primate, or between groups of entangled molecules and Doctor Hidbickle's device. Either way, Bryce would be aware as to whether entanglement was taking place or not, and have a series of probabilities that would confirm or deny it.

On his left screen were a number of biological indicators pertaining to the Primate, their test subject who was at this very moment being strapped into the bed of the MRI. The biofeedback would correlate any alterations to temperature and hormone production related to nervous system activity stimulated by Doctor Hidbickle's Biomagnetic Field Emitter device.

Beside him, Zheng sat at her own workstation, though her screens were much different than his. They depicted command line consoles on either of her bracketing screens, while the one in the center was her coding screen. The place from which she'd any code that was needed on the fly, in case Bryce wanted to know the product of two or more of any of their other information channels coming from the monitoring in Halifax. She could very simply (and quickly) write the code in an interpreted or byte code programming language and then run it within a minute or two of Bryce's request.

Between the two of them sat Doctor Briggs, where from his vantage point he could looked to Zheng's workstation screens and then Bryce's as need be. He'd be providing his knowledge of Sociology, especially at the intersection between Psychology and Biochemistry.

"I'm looking good here Bryce," Zheng said, checking her console screen's log once more to make sure that the compiler had found and built all of her custom libraries for the byte code interpreter.

"Excellent! We should be able to pull this off without a hitch. I'd say things are pretty darn good here, too. Its great to be able to do this in realtime," Bryce responded to Zheng.

"...Owww!" Gabe's voice came through on their headsets.

"...Gabe?" Zheng checked to make sure her former employer was alright.

"...I'm fine. Really. They've relaxed my traction, and my Nurse... Helga, is removing the casts from my leg. They're replacing it with a semi-permeable transparent cast today, one that they quick dry by exposing it to a UV light gun. Its pretty neat actually, but I have to tell you, that Helga should have considered a career as a mechanic rather than as a Nurse... Arrgggh!" Gabe responded to Zheng, purposely speaking loud enough to ensure that his Nurse heard him.

"You'll be happy to know that the fiber line you provided us with is working like a charm," Bryce said to Gabe, trying to give him some form of flattery to overcome his struggles healing from the MindSpice bombing.

"Uhhhhh can I cut in here for a second?" asked Doctor Hidbickle from the MRI lab at the University of Halifax in Nova Scotia.

"You sure can... Welcome to the team by the way, Doctor Hidbickle," Bryce addressed the newest addition to their team.

"You wouldn't happen to be the same Gabe that owns MindSpice, would you?" asked Doctor Hidbickle in a quirky and nervous voice.

"For your ears only, yes. That's meeee... oooowwwr!" Gabe responded as Helga removed the last cast from his legs.

"What he means to say is that you can't divulge that information to anyone else. There's still an investigation pending and he's supposed to be ix-nayed as they say in pig latin," Bryce explained to Doctor Hidbickle.

"Alright. I'll keep quiet about it. I won't even tell Deloise..." Doctor Hidbickle responded.

"Oh, you're married? That's so nice. Your wife has a nice name," Zheng replied perkily upon hearing.

"Deloise isn't my wife. She's my Chimpanzee. The very one strapped into the MRI bed right now... Aren't you Deloise..." Doctor Hidbickle replied, and they heard a few animalistic squawks in the background from Doctor Hidbickle's end.

"Alright, we're just about ready at this end Doctor Hidbickle. Let us know when you're ready to begin," Bryce said to Doctor Hidbickle.

"We might want to start with the most stressful tests first and progress backwards. It would work better in terms of biochemistry," Doctor Briggs explained to them.

"I usually try to stagger them," Doctor Hidbickle explained as he readied his Biomagnetic Field Emitter.

"Alright. That's fair. Before we start, why don't we just go over the list of what we're doing here today, and what we're looking for in each case so that we're all on the same page. It helps to keep us in sync, you know?" Bryce suggested encouragingly.

"Sounds good to me," Zheng replied.

"I'm good with that..." Doctor Hidbickle responded as he loaded a file of biomagnetic recordings he'd crafted for this experiment.

"Alright. I'm recording now so you all know. I'm Professor Bryce Maxwell, here today with Computer Scientist and Software Engineer extraordinaire Zheng Ni Wong who will be giving us combined channels on the fly during today's procedure. In Halifax in their Department of Medicine's MRI facility, we have Doctor Sheldon Hidbickle, Neuroscientist and general thinker outside of the proverbial box. He'll be hosting a series of experiments where we'll measure the nervous system feedback of a four year old Chimpanzee named Deloise. Its important to note that these experiments in no way cause any physical harm to our test subject," Bryce began.

"Last but not least, we also have Doctor Stephen Briggs on hand, providing us with his expertise in Sociology and biochemistry based Psychology. Finally, to the ends of contextual filtering of our realtime data, we have the Quantum based AI by MindSpice who refers to herself simply as MAZ," Bryce paused long enough to check his own tablet where he'd compiled in point form, a list of their day's activities.

"Before I go any further, I'd like to thank the Alumni for arranging this time for us, and the facilities at University of Toronto and University of Halifax for the use of their resources during this experiment," Bryce checked his notes on the tablet before continuing.

"So before we get the experiments, we're going to go over the plan for each experiment in the form of what we're doing, and then describing what we're looking for as a result of having done that thing. First of all, each experiment will be initiated by Doctor Hidbickle, who has developed a specialized piece of hardware he calls the Biomagnetic Field emitter, or BIF as he calls it. Why don't you begin by describing exactly what BIF is and what it does, Doctor Hidbickle?" Bryce asked the latest addition to their team.

"The BIF as I call it, is a playback device, which takes previously recorded sessions and plays them back as simulated biomagnetic fields. The same kind of magnetic field emitted by our human nervous system any time there's nervous system activity, which as you are already likely aware of, is mostly all the time," Doctor Hidbickle explained for their audio recording for the experiment.

"Now where do you record these biomagnetic fields from, Doctor Hidbickle?" asked Bryce the obvious question.

"From other primates who are in various different states of emotion or behaviour. For instance, I have recordings categorized by their tendency towards euphoria and on the other end of that spectrum, towards stress. I have recordings between these two extremes at a variety of different levels. I have recordings based upon primates suffering from a lack of sleep, and others who are under the effects of  the stimulant caffeine. Recordings of primates with high metabolic urges and those who choose to eat very little. Recordings of primates who suffer from what we assume to be tension headaches, and those who are in very good health. Recordings of low activity level primates and on the other end of the scale, very active all the time. I've managed to amass over a hundred different recordings, each of them carefully categorized with a keyword system, so I can find them again easily," Doctor Hidbickle explained to Bryce.

"So today we're going to be using the BIF to play a few different recordings and to measure how Deloise's nervous system responds to the playback of these recordings, because BIF actually creates the same magnetic field as our bodies do, isn't that right Doctor Hidbickle?" asked Bryce of his peer.

"Yes, that would be correct. Its kind of like a portable stereo for playing back nervous system recordings in the form of biologically encoded magnetic fields," Doctor Hidbickle answered.

"Now these magnetic fields have the potential to affect other primates, don't they?" asked Bryce, though he already knew the answer.

"That's correct Professor Maxwell. As you already know, magnetic fields have many of the same qualities as direct electical current. Actually, all of these recordings began life as electric current in the nervous systems of the primates from which I recorded them. The human body is nearly seventy percent water, and water is one of the best known naturally occuring molecules that conduct electricity. Whenever a current passes through a conductor like the water in our bodies, it produces a magnetic field," Doctor Hidbickle explained to Bryce.

"Now where does all the information from the current in the nervous system go when its turned into a magnetic field?" Bryce asked the million dollar question, once again already knowing the answer.

"The information is encoded biologically into the current changes between neurons in the nervous system in the form of microvoltages. When that current produces a magnetic field, the information is also encoded as well, in the form of frequency and field strength. So it retains most of the information, with a signal to noise ratio of -29 db to -3 db between neurons, which is a very noisy channel of course," Doctor Hidbickle went on.

"With that level of signal to noise ratio, is it even possible that a biomagnetic field might affect the nervous system of another primate?" asked Bryce.

"It seems to, those were the absolute findings of my paper The Short And Long Term Effects Of The Application Of Extraneous Simulated Biologically Originating Electromagnetic Fields Upon The Bodies And Behaviours Of Primates, although we were unable to come to any conclusion as to how the nervous system was able to retain information cohesiveness and context when decoding from a third generation byproduct of the original signal. Once from nervous system to bioelectric current. Second from bioelectric current to biomagnetic field. Third from biomagnetic field to bioelectric current in a different body," Doctor Hidbickle explained.

"We have a list of different recordings, twelve in all, with six being of a potentially negative experience for our test subject, and six of them being a potentially positive experience. In each case, we will be looking for signs that those signals affected our primate test subject, Deloise, and any evidence indicating the mechanisms, whether they be of a classical or quantum nature, behind alterations to the homeostasis of the body of our test subject," Bryce finished.

"Homeostasis meaning the body's hormone levels are at equilibrium. A balance that finds the body and mind of the subject in a state of calm," Doctor Hidbickle added for the sake of clarity.

"Just to further clarify Bryce's and Doctor Hidbickle's statement about homeostasis, many aspects of the behaviour of primates, including human beings, are drastically affected by alterations to their hormone balance at any given time. Most primates have evolved a fight or flight instinct, one which is often triggered by the extreme production of hormones whenever the primate faces a life or death situation. The idea behind such evolution is that at some point in the history of the species, it was disadvantagous to utilize a rational mind to deal with situations that required brute strength and endurance when encountering a physical threat to one's own safety. These hormones at sufficient level override the body's rational state, and essentially cause the experiencer to fight or flee from the threat, as a reactionary measure of survival," Doctor Briggs began.

"Probably the source of many stress related ailments in modern society I'd be willing to bet?" Bryce responded to Doctor Briggs' statement.

"More so than most people know, Bryce. About ten thousand years ago, that advantage afforded by fight or flight syndrome slowly turned into a disadvantage, as modern humans took the stage and became the apex predator on the planet. The ways of life that prized brute strength above all else were slowly replaced by social organization. We learned to cultivate land and raise animals for food, which eliminated our most pressing need for having evolved fight or flight response in the first place. The advantage slowly went to those who favoured their rational mind more so than their ability to conjure brute force. This was even the case with the evolution of warriors and the military, as the most effective combatants tended to be the ones who were the most aptly dedicated to rationality and education. When it comes to a band of brutes versus a well trained and organized force, its strategy that wins the day. Most primates until this very day, including humans, still have the remanants of the fight or flight safety mechanism that was imperative to our survival before civilization existed. Hormones versus sources of stress play a big role in such behaviour surfacing in primates," Doctor Briggs explained.

"That's very interesting and certainly underlines the importance of what we're investigating here  today   via these experiments. Obviously if there are ways that our endocrine system can be affected remotely, by biological or technological means, it is imperative for humanity to become aware of this early on," Bryce summarized.

"...and as our friend Heylyn Yates said, to learn from Central and Southeast Asia's predominant knowledge of matters involving the human biofield through practices such as Qi Gong, Reiki and Yoga is fundamental to what we're currently trying to understand. Much of this knowledge is a part of Heylyn's and my own culture's traditional system of Chinese medicine and has explicitly been used in healing for almost three thousand years," Zheng spoke up on a topic that her and her boyfriend Doctor Briggs had discussed on many occasions.

"This is true. They had many of the body's nerve ending points accurately mapped nearly two thousand years ago, and were using them to treat illnesses in a similar way that neurologists might use modern diagnostic techniques to trace problems through the nervous system to their source. For instance, you'll find meridians on the feet that correspond with nerve endings leading directly to bodily organs such as the lungs and heart. Given the almost counterintuitive nature of this arrangement of our nervous system, its a wonder that they mapped it so accurately long before modern medicine, and for its application in accupuncture," Doctor Briggs explained to them.

"You know, since we discussed this very matter on our flight from Seoul to Beijing a couple of years ago, I've come to the consensus that Accupuncture operates under the same concepts involving antennas connected to a receiver array, in this case the array being biologically neural in architecture. The Accupuncture pins historically have come in two different forms. The first being made of a conductive metal, making them excellent antennae with regard to localized magnetic fields. The second form from history, though not used in modern accupuncture anymore were actually electrical insulators. Now between the two, and in the presence of locally occurring magnetic fields, the use of such needles would produce two very different results insofar as the conduction of magnetic fields to produce a localized current at a nerve ending. This is something that got me thinking about the possible relationship between the phenomenology of the nervous system and the Quantum Mechanical nature of magnetic fields," Bryce explained.

"I thought that the Penrose/Hameroff model of Quantum Consciousness had been ruled out due to the data from a recent experiment? Consequently whose paper I also read a few months ago," Doctor Briggs brought up.

"Its a bit more involved than that and the debate is far from over when it comes to Quantum models for consciousness. Their model attempted to describe that the processes that made it possible for observations conducted by humans upon a stable Quantum system leading it to the collapse of the wave function were a result of Quantum phenomenon inside of the brain, specifically in the microtubules of neural synapses that reduce interactions at this level to a variety of Pseudo-Quantum States. Anyway, that's not what I'm referring to when I talk about the human nervous system, and the connection between the possibility that Qi and Accupuncture are in some way connected with Quantum Mechanics at the level of interaction with electrical fields. We understand these interactions quite well mathematically..." Bryce continued until Zheng jumped in.

"I'm a mathematician and I found them a little bit intimidating, especially transcribing them to your Quantum based Programming Language to get them to run on the MindSpice Quantum Hardware Array. Sorry Doctor Hidbickle but we're reminiscing about stuff that happened a while back. We'll be with you soon," Zheng interrupted Bryce momentarily.

"Thanks Zheng, but I'm still getting setup here. Besides, I'd much rather be hearing this than Doctor Moor rant about someone fogging up his test tubes again...!!!" Doctor Hidbickle responded, sounding like he might have been addressing someone sarcastically in his current presence on the other side of the country.

"Sorry Bryce. Please do carry on," Zheng chuckled over Doctor Hidbickles comment.

"...After we returned from our trip with the Western Delegation, I spent a lot of time looking up information on the topic and found that in most papers detailing the Accupuncture and the nervous system, that it had been predominantly labeled as quackery, with the least skeptical of western Doctors labeling it as "Placebo Theatre". Many claimed that there was simply no hard data to back up its effectiveness, and that qi simply doesn't exist. That it or the meridians and dantians of Chinese medicine simply can't be detected by experimental means. Of course, that was a few years back, and you know how engineers are. Give them a challenge and they'll give you the solution in seven different colours, and with air conditioning if you'd like. So as fate would have it, when I recently began looking into this again, I found that the technology for detecting minute magnetic and electrical fields had grown considerably. In fact it had grown exponentially. Since I began looking, I've read a number of papers where scientists were able to measure the very magnetic field of the Chi effect, with complete specs on the detectors and the methods involved. There has been a windfall of data on the subject, but it has been notoriously quiet on the subject of the nervous system as an information system very relevant to human behaviour. Need I say that when a butterfly a few kilometers away and with electrically conductive wings flaps them, that the disturbances to regional magnetic fields cascades to affect the nervous systems of magnetically sensitive people..." Bryce explained.

"Nice use of the butterfly effect, but how does that all fit in to this?" asked Doctor Briggs.

"I was more making a joke, but my point was that even if we wanted to detect something so miniscule as what I just described, that the means for doing so are available almost as quickly as we can imagine something like that. My proof for that is: here we are today, doing exactly what someone a few years ago told me was quackery and impossible," Bryce looked to Doctor Briggs with an intense smile on his face.

"Its good to be working with you again, Bryce. Somebody get this man a piano!"  Doctor Briggs smiled back to Bryce.

And with that, the experiments began.

Big Time

Norler was the first to approach the giant doors. A heavy pair built of stained oak a mixed pattern of tiled walnut veneer. The people seated at the big table in the room behind him, continued along with their itinerary, having already bid their guests a farewell.

Before Norler could get his hand firmly on the door handle, an elderly man in a wheelchair pulled up behind him.

"I'm sorry that we didn't get much time to chat in the meeting, but I've got myself focused on many different aspects as I seek recompense from Werner-Goldstein Holdings," Werner spoke in a groggy voice as he came to a stop behind them.

"I thought all that was behind you now?" asked Norler as Alicia and Gregory turned to face the aging man.

"When you get to be my age, Norler, you eventually realize that when it comes to matters of business, you're either struggling through the wake of the bigger ship ahead of you, or you're the one making that wake for someone else behind you. I've been one of the big players for so long, that I failed to realize when I'd fallen into the wake of a much bigger ship. I'm certain that's something with which you've become familiar recently?" asked Werner, looking piercingly into Norler's eyes.

Alicia looked to Norler, who returned her glance. It was true. They were already very familiar with the dynamics of something that had overtaken their way of life. Both Alicia and Norler were at one time the legendary heroes of Tynan And Associates. Together, they'd helped the science and medical technology investment firm to advance to the top spot in the world market. 

Shortly after their arrival there, Norler had been ousted. Obstinatiously and strategically, his reputation was slowly undermined while his competition for the position of CEO, Michael Jason Santers, was built into a boardroom symbol. An icon, casting a shadow over Norler's accomplishments. The one who'd take the helm from Norler and guide the company into the future without him. Norler had left Tynan. He'd actually been relieved of his position, which was then given to Michael.

Alicia had been kept on as the Director Of Medical Research, but mostly because the patents for the SY-349 were her's, and would remain as such for another sixteen years, after which they'd become the property of the public. She knew that she was being kept on and paid handsomely simply because of that fact. If she'd not managed to retain control of her own patents, she'd have just as likely been out the door with Norler, and Michael Jason Santers would now be flaunting both of their accomplishments as his own. He'd be Tynan's new poster boy, while Alicia and Norler would be swept under the (black) carpet.

"We've been managing," Alicia responded someone optimistically after a moment of silence.

"I've got a healthy nest egg I've been saving for a rainy day, and Alicia brings in enough to keep our heads above water," Norler admitted to Werner.

"And you young man? What do you have besides a good head on your shoulders?" asked Werner of Gregory.

"A lot of ideas, and a bank account with half a million dollars now..." Gregory responded, his knuckles whitened from gripping the tablet with the account information they'd given him before they left.

"Of the two, I'd focus on your ideas, for that money is as fleeting as your time. Learn from Norler about handling matters of finance, and keep your eye on the real ball. Your ideas," Werner winked at Gregory, even wheeling over to him and reaching up to pat him on the shoulder admiringly.

"Werner. I can't thank you enough," Norler held out his hand to the aging man, accepted their shake and grasped it firmly with a drive that made many million dollar deals over the course of his life.

"You already have my boy. This deal when it comes to fruition, will change the world of medical science and at the same time, pad all of our pockets nicely. Not only that, but it will give us enough to compete eye to eye with Tynan, hence keeping you in the bigger game," Werner shook again firmly.

Werner released Norler's hand and was about to wheel away, when Alicia leaned over and kissed him tenderly on the cheek.

"That's for you. We've never needed help since the SY-349 took off, but even those of us who find their way to the upper balconies of condos need a true saviour every once in a while..." Alicia held his hand for a moment, and then released him once again.

For a moment, they saw a tear welling up in Werner's eye.

"Alright. Go out there and get to it! Let's make MediFriend the winner we know it will be," Werner's bottom lip quivered before his sense of will and professionalism won, and he conquered his emotions once again.

Norler turned and grasped the door handle, firmly pushing. Despite the doors being nearly a metric tonne together in weight, they moved easily on their hinges as he held one of them open for his fiancé Alicia.

She stepped through first and out into the corporate hall of Future Tangent Industries' Toronto Headquarters. Norler, and then Gregory followed her, each in succession, Norler quickly catching up to her and pacing by her side.

"That went exceedingly well," she said to Norler modestly.

"Maybe its an omen of things to come?" Norler replied, with a smile on his face.

"Maybe, but I'd like to think of it as serendipity. Sounds a bit more scientific without sacrificing its humble origins," Alicia kept a straight face as they walked through the long hall from the meeting room and back to the elevators.

"So I can spend this however I want?" asked Gregory as he eyed the digital paperwork for the account transfer on his tablet.

"Let's wait and discuss this downstairs," Norler insisted to Gregory, who nodded in agreement.

"I know this is all digital... but I can't help but feel like I'm somehow heavier. Like I've got a bunch of gold nuggets in my pocket," Gregory's face was flush as he walked.

They continued along the hall, passing several office doors of a similar stature to the ones through which they'd left the meeeting until they reached the elevators. Gregory remained fixated on the account transfer statement on his tablet, while Alicia turned to face her fiancé.

"That was some pretty slick negotiating back there. So do you come here often?"  asked Alicia of Norler, playfully adjusting his tie as she faced him.

"Apparently not often enough," Norler gave Alicia a quick peck on the lips as the elevator arrived.

The trip down on the elevator was relatively quiet, though Gregory smiled and chuckled a couple of times as he got willies stomach from the descent.

"That's a fast elevator. It should be a ride at Canada's Wonderland!" Gregory remarked, the butterflies still tickling the edges of his stomach.

The rest of the ride was quiet as they reached the parking level less than thirty seconds later.

"I'll drive," offered Alicia as she got into the car.

"Thanks honey," Norler responded, getting in the front passenger side.

"So can we talk now?" asked Gregory enthusiastically.

"We sure can. When we're leaving a meeting like that, especially after it having gone so well, its a good idea to keep an even keel. As that old Kenny Rogers song goes: you never count your money, when you're sitting at the (card) table, or in our case, in a finance meeting," Norler explained to Gregory the etiquette of business.

"So we're out of the meeting now. I've got an account transfer to my name of half a million dollars, with another one point five million coming a week from now. That's more money than I've ever had, or even made in my entire life!" Gregory's breath began accelerating as he began to hyperventilate.

He fell backwards into his seat again, gasping for air as Alicia leaned over the driver's seat and pulled Gregory's inhaler from the inside jacket of his suit. She put it in his mouth, as his hands fumbled to grasp the simple device and dispense its steroid concoction into his lungs. He depressed the cannister, and dispensed the medicine into his lungs. A moment later, his breathing began to slow and he regained his composure once again.

"You put my inhaler in my jacket for me?" asked Gregory in amazement of Alicia.

"I did. Someone's gotta look out for you, and with your mother living safely in a managed residence, you're going to have to start taking care of yourself, and maybe someday soon, her too. Norler and I might not always be around to help you, Gregory," Alicia faced him from the driver's seat.

"I'm sorry but I got excited... about the money..." Gregory admitted.

"Yes, you did, but if you forget little things like that, like remembering to keep your inhaler on you, you might lose it all when you strike it big. When you hit the big time," Alicia said to him in a nurturing fashion.

Norler looked to Alicia admiringly, reaching over and rubbing her stomach expectantly.

"Gregory. You've got some money now, but quite honestly, money changes nothing about you. I still remember the first time that I ran into a large sum of money. Actually I earned it through a good deal I made, which was a risky gamble for me, but it turned out nonetheless. I spent days, even weeks, staring at my ledger, focused on the line with my balance, thinking that I could buy just about anything I want," Norler explained to Gregory.

"Sure, I went out with some friends to a night club and got very drunk, paying for their drinks and mine the whole night through. In the morning though, I realized that nothing had changed except the level of responsibility I suddenly had. I mean, I had a roof over my head. I had food. I had water. All the stuff you really need to live and survive. Sure, I had some nice clothes too. A nice car. But ultimately what it all came down to was the fact that my net worth was the foundation of the jobs and livelihood of a lot of other people. That money wasn't just about me. Just about going out and indulging my whims. It was about something much more and I know that you'll understand me, because the money will never take away your love for what you do," Norler explained to Gregory.

"When you run out of things to buy that you think will fill whatever void there is in your life, you'll always return to the thing you love doing most. That thing that got you there in the first place. I'm willing to bet that MediFriend is just the first success you'll have in a future with many other similar successes. The money makes taking care of yourself easier, but all in all it comes down to two things: doing that thing you love to do and being responsible with your money and finances. You're obviously a natural born inventor and engineer, much like Nicolai Tesla and Henry Ford. Learn from their lives, both their accomplishments and their shortcomings, because both of them became a great source of prosperity. Each of them driving the world economy into trillions and trillions of dollars until this very day. The money sitting in that account all by its lonesome doesn't mean that you have to go out spend it, when you can leverage it to help you make the next version of MediFriend so much easier. You'll be growing a dream, and dreams are the stuff that makes the world go around. You can spend it Gregory, but be sure to reinvest it back into your dream," Norler said to Gregory, drawing from a long career of successes.

"So, are my two successes ready to depart now?" Alicia looked back first to Gregory and then to Norler lovingly.

"Where to now? Can we at least stop get a nice meal from a drive through?" asked Gregory.

"We're all dressed up, why don't we try something different, Gregory. Let's go and have a lunch at a restaurant where we can make use of our attire. You can treat us Gregory," Alicia turned and smiled at him, knowing that would probably help him to fill the void he thought would be filled by spending his money to fulfill his desires.

"Alright. I could do that. As long as they have lots of good food," Gregory replied.

"Alright. Why don't we hit The Looking Glass Lounge. They've got a pretty awesome buffet and a great venue, not to mention, live lounge piano. I think you'd like it," Alicia suggested.

"I don't know. I don't think I'd fit into a place like that," Gregory responded skeptically.

"Its one of Zheng Ni Wong's favourite places," Alicia added coyly and perhaps a little manipulatively.

"Zheng? What are we waiting for! Let's go! I'm buying!" Gregory quickly responded.

Alicia put the car into drive and pulled out of the Future Tangent Industries parking level and out onto Bay Street on their way to The Looking Glass Lounge.

Much as Valerie and Trey had been followed, so were Alicia, Norler and Gregory, from a black sedan with tinted windows. Within the vehicle, the driver and the passenger kept a line on their quarry. They were careful never to engage them with eye contact, but the two never let their prey out of their sight.

The Long Way Home

Monique sat in one of the chairs at reception, adjusting her Prada heels to her liking as she waited for Heylyn to return to the office. Jennifer had informed her that Heylyn had left just three hours earlier, and had opted to retain her own messages, leaving Monique and most of the rest of the building in the dark. An extremely rare occurrence coming from Heylyn, but enough so that in doing so she'd raised alarm within some.

"Nothing from Heylyn yet?" asked Monique of Jennifer at the reception desk.

"No Monique. I'm sorry, but in all honestly, I'd expect that you'll be waiting there for some time..." Jennifer responded to her question, apparently knowing Heylyn's schedule better than any.

"Alright. I get the hint. I'll just walk home alone..." Monique said, standing on her heels as the front doors opened.

"You're still here? Where's Heylyn?" asked Aikiko, just having returned from her afternoon class with Hanshi Hind.

"She had to go out... It was an emergency..." Monique responded, sounding somewhat agitated at the idea.

"Warai? Is she alright?" asked Aikiko immediately concerned for the Gem.

"Yes. Warai is alright. It wasn't about Warai and if it was, do honestly you think that I'd be here?" asked Monique, craning her head to one side.

"I get your point. If it wasn't Warai, then what else could it be?" asked Aikiko, still in her exercise outfit, her Goju-Ryu Gi in her bag.

"Its a bit complicated. Zheng, Doctor Briggs and Bryce stopped by on their way to the University Lab and discussed Mentis and Habus. It was a pretty deep conversation, and I think it got Heylyn a bit worried. So I imagine she stepped out to speak with whomever she turns to when she needs a mentor..." Monique observed empathically.

"Jinn?" asked Aikiko.

"Sure, but let's have something to eat first..." Monique responded, obviously having missed Aikiko's intended point.

"No. I meant Jinn Hua. Heylyn went to see Jinn Hua, but we can go for gin after we eat. I have a craving for fish burger. That place on Queen Street that makes them with calamari rings?" Aikiko corrected Monique, and then got to thinking about food and drinks immediately after.

"I suppose we could do that. Let me try Heylyn once more, and then we'll go..." Monique pulled her cellular phone and dialed Heylyn's number.

"And how is Aikiko doing?" asked Jennifer as she prepared to lock the front door.

"I am being good, but that says nothing about what I am thinking. How are you being today Jennifer?" Aikiko responded creatively.

"It was a good day. A bit hectic at times but that was just fine. I like being busy rather than being idle," Jennifer approached the door, ready to lock it.

"Wait! Let us out first, please?" asked Monique, putting her phone into her purse.

"Alright. You two have a good night. See you tomorrow," Jennifer said as Monique and Aikiko slipped out through the front doors of West Meet East, Jennifer locking the door behind them.

"Are you up for a walk?" asked Monique.

"Yes, that would be nice. Especially after the exercise I had today. It would be good for a stretch," Aikiko replied, striding alongside Monique as they made their way up towards Queen Street along John Street.

"Sooo, have you noticed it?" asked Monique of Aikiko, laying the bait.

"Have I noticed what? You're going to have to give me more than that if you want me to elaborate," Aikiko seemed amused by sudden Monique's riddle.

"Well, don't tell anyone, but I think that Heylyn and Braden have the hots for each other..." Monique, being completely absent of patience simply laid it all out on a plate for Aikiko.

"I only have one question in response to that Monique. How many other people have you implored not to tell anyone...? Surely you can see the hypocrisy in such a statement?" Aikiko challenged her friend and gossip.

"What? Are you accusing me of gossip? Its all intended in good fun. Heylyn is like my best friend, and my mentor. Seeing someone, a potential boyfriend light her fire is like a dream to me! I only mentioned it because you're one of my best friends, and I'm excited about this! So back off karate girl!" Monique exclaimed at Aikiko, causing Aikiko to suddenly burst out in playful laughter.

"Karate girl? That sounds like the name of the television shows I used to watch with my best friend, Harumi. On her television because we didn't have one. My father wouldn't allow it. He thought it would bring misfortune..." Aikiko responded, suddenly thrust back into a long lost memory.

"For some reason, I can't picture you watching television," Monique replied, puzzled at the prospect.

"Well, at one point, I did. With Harumi. Her family were like the family I never had. Like the family I lost. They believed in dreams. That we were watching dreams through the wires of the television. There is still much superstition there, in that little prefecture in Osaka, and for Harumi's family, that was a big part of the mystery that ignited the fires that drove them through their life," Aikiko explained to Monique.

"Really? I just can't picture that about you Aikiko, but I could picture that about me. Funny enough, I didn't even like television when I was young. I always felt like I was watching something, but there was nobody watching me back. Like it was a lonely one way experience. Not quite like a mirror, but close," Monique looked to her friend.

"Now for you, I could believe that. A woman who became someone upon which all the attention falls? Television is very one way and for a reason. The privacy of opinion is of commercial value, whereas, the runway is a very direct two way communications medium of the speculation of merchandise value. One very appealing to a Leo like you," Aikiko responded to Monique.

"Since when did you get into astrology?" Monique responded, shocked that Aikiko would even find interest in something of that nature.

"It is somewhat common back home, but comes in many different forms. For instance, we inherit much from mainland China when it comes to their own native astrology, which comes in two forms. The mainland China form and the Cantonese, post Hong Kong invasion form," Aikiko described for Monique.

"So what would I be?" asked Monique, always preferring an audience for herself.

"That depends. What year were you born?" asked Aikiko.

Monique told Aikiko her year of birth, blushing slightly afterward.

"You're a Pig! That makes so much sense!" Aikiko blurted out somewhat discretely.

"A Pig?! I'm not a pig! I barely eat a nibble at lunch! " Monique responded defensively.

"Its not literal, Monique. Its figurative. Metaphorical and based upon a symbol much different from what you understand. A pig in China, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand or Japan and a pig in Canada, are two very different things conceptually," Aikiko explained.

"So what sign are you? In North American astrology I mean?" asked Monique.

"Me? I'm Pisces. I am the two fish, one forever swimming up stream, the other following forever the current..." Aikiko replied.

"Does that mean that you're a water sign?" Monique asked Aikiko.

"I am," Aikiko nodded as they walked.

"So how do you and I get along so well when we're opposites?" Monique asked Aikiko, who was mimicking a swimming fish, her hands the gills flexing on the side of her face.

"The lanterns on the Lilies. The Fire Lotus on the waters of our ancestors. Oil floats nicely on water, and they built many lanterns on thereupon. Fire that floats. Perhaps you're the fire that floats on my waters, or I'm the waters lifted hither by your fire. One way or another, we clearly get along. Opposites or not," Aikiko agreed.

"Here we are. Chicken Tortiere Wrap with a side of Poutine here I come..." Monique said as she got the door for Aikiko.

"And gin?" confirmed Aikiko.

"That too," Monique replied as they found their way into the restaurant.

The Yang That Whispers Like Thunder

Not far from the downtown center of the fashion district frequented by the flowers and butterflies that populated the City of Toronto, in the midst of a converted fitness center, a room full of men stood, each paired up with a sparring partner.

Some of these partnerships were very organized in their practice, following a specific regime geared towards both attacking and protecting the various quadrants of the body.

Others were instead regimented, following a specific schedule, where one partner would take up a stance, and the other would test it for a variety of vulnerabilities.

Then there were those of the upper echelons of the various martial arts they practiced, testing the best of the best for their features and form.

Sanchin: or the armour of the body was amongst the most impressive. The student held their heavily tensed muculature of the body, while the Master tested it. Bones are very hard, but quite often, muscles are more enduring, for they are the embodiment of the Goju Ryu: the hard soft warrior

Bones can only be hard in most specific instances and could only be altered in form with a very high degree of training, whereas muscles could be both hard and soft at the same time. The very essence of the hard soft warrior.

And yet, Hoon Kwang with his student had somehow embellished upon the concept of hard soft, for in his understanding, there was a third state of matter and energy. Of form. A concept that had arisen from one of the early Southeast Asian dynasties. A concept embodied in the Gojoseon flag.

"Whenever faced with the diametrical two, simply add a third," Tiger Hoon Kwang said to his student as he approached, ready for the test.

"Two versus three is it?" Hanshi queried his peer.

"Do you see three hands? Three arms? Three legs? Is there something you see that I'm missing?" Hoon Kwang responded, keeping his third option well hidden.

Hanshi's student held fast as Hoon Kwang leapt forward. Once, then twice, perhaps trying to shake his balance.

That was when Hoon Kwang launched his attack. First with his left hand, coming in at a wide arc. When Hanshi's student blocked Hoon Kwang's attack, the Tiger spun around, striking with his back hand, only to have to it blocked by a dualistically trained strategist in Hanshi's student.

"You're doing good Borden. Just hold onto it," Hanshi encouraged his student.

Hoon Kwang then followed up with a front kick, having distracted Hanshi's student to either extreme before applying the center attack.

Hoon Kwang's foot struck Hanshi's student's abdomen, sending him backwards and onto the matt. What Hoon Kwang failed to accomodate for was that his student had fallen into a roll, and was back up onto his feet firmly.

"Side to side. Backwards, forwards. I see no third option," Hanshi challenged Hoon Kwang with his student.

Hoon Kwang didn't wait for Hanshi to finish his sentence before launching a spinning round kick of such ferocity that Hanshi's student almost didn't see it.

By the time it was upon him, he managed to divert the side to side force over his head with a block, while retaining his grip on Hoon Kwang's leg. A move Hoon Kwang had already anticipated. Midflight, Hoon Kwang placed his own hand onto that of Hanshi's student, where he'd committed himself to the block.

The student had no choice but to follow the motion of Hoon Kwang's kick, lest his own arm be dislocated.

When Hoon Kwang landed, he released his grip of the hand of Hanshi's student.

"One two three. Easy as can be," Hoon Kwang smiled at Hanshi, whose face was anything but amused.

"Why not try it with five?" asked a voice from behind Hoon Kwang.

"Braden? Are you challenging me?" Hoon Kwang turned around to face the new challenger.

"Yes. Without your student. Just you and me. No grudge. No malice. Just opting for Hanshi's student's honour," Braden removed his jacket, and then his shirt, revealing a thin body rippled with muscle and the ancient ink of the dragon talisman that adorned his body.

"So Hanshi's other student wants some, does he?" asked Hoon Kwang, perhaps adding his own malice to his voice.

"I do. I'd like a taste of my future with you, Sebomnim. I just want to make sure that you're worthy of me," Braden had already begun to fight, and yet without violence.

"Fair enough, jeja, or would you prefer I refer to you as hak saeng?" Hoon Kwang was already circling his opponent like the Tiger he was.

"I'd prefer to be referred to as Hanshi's student, for it is the dojo's honour I'll be defending. I suppose if I'd have started with your classes Tiger, then the situation would likely be much different. Nonetheless, I'll be facing you with the five..." Braden challenged the Tiger.

"Five? I've never faced a student who already had five styles under his belt. The five quadrants of attack and defense?" asked Hoon Kwang.

"That's a pretty good guess. Head. Arms. Legs. That's five right there, making the torso the sixth, but that's not what I meant," Braden responded, still circling in diametrical opposition to the Tiger.

"Then you mean Miyamoto Musashi's Five Rings perhaps? Very applicable to this situation I'd think," Hoon Kwang responded.

"No. I'm not referring to Miyamoto Musashi's principles, though they apply here. I can only give you the following clue in the form of a koan:" Braden began reciting.

"It springs forth from wood.

Can't be cut by sharpened metal.

Sometimes deep within the earth.

It levels everything it touches.

Yet is quickly tamed by water from the sky.

What is it?" asked Braden of Hoon Kwang.

"Very clever and impressive Braden. You clearly bring many aspects of your your Chinese ancestry with you. Given your clues, I'd say that you're talking about fire?" the Tiger continued to circle his prey.

"Thanks. I couldn't have said it better. Now we're in my element," Braden replied, advancing on Tiger, trying to find his zone of control.

Hoon Kwang intuitively withdrew ever so slightly, inviting Braden into his circle of reach. A large invisible ovoid area, centered on and denoted by the ability of a martial artist to launch an attack before their opponent could mount a strong defense and counter-attack.

In this situation, Braden knew that if he attacked first, that he'd be quickly struck down and submitted, though he'd gamble that most of what Hoon Kwang knew was quick, fast and hard strikes, all of them designed for a fast take down, as was the very nature of Tae Kwon Do. However, what Braden didn't know was that Hoon Kwang had also developed and extended the original curriculum with his own techniques. Most of these hidden moves were designed to fill in the gaps with regard to restraint and submission, rounding out one of the most powerful dexterity and endurance based martial arts system in the world. 

Ironically, these were techniques he'd developed long before he'd even qualified as an instructor, drawing upon what he'd learned from other members of the Butterfly Dragon system. By the time he'd opened his first Dojang, his additions to martial arts techniques opened up a market in terms of his students, allowing him to become a licensed trainer for both security and Police services. It was this very aspect that led to his initial financial success and popularity amongst the various schools.

Braden however, was no spring rooster himself. He'd trained for years, working with his family's artisan dance troupe, touring China. He himself was an acrobat, trained by Sifu Yŭxuān Guo in the art of Gong Fu, while into his early adulthood, he'd become very proficient in Wing Chun, integrating it into his Gong Fu regime. Throughout his mid twenties, he'd left his family's troupe and began working for a nameless contact, carrying out various secretive operations, most of which involved business interests both at home in China and abroad. It was during these operations that he'd developed his unique martial arts style into a very practical form. At that point, he was approached by a woman of some political reach and tasked with protecting a young Korean girl. A story whose ultimate end had eventually brought him to this very point in life, while Warai was a distance away in another part of the city being coddled by her stand-in grandparents: Heylyn's own parents. He bore his very same guard against Hoon Kwang. The very one which had protected Warai over the course of the two years he'd known her.

When Braden had set foot into Hoon Kwang's trap, there was a sudden blur of motion and he found himself very quickly on the defensive. Hoon Kwang's first strike came in the form of a front kick, which Braden deflected with his guard. Hoon Kwang wasted no time in following up with a series of punches delivered in quick succession. Braden kept his left guard high as he backed away from Hoon Kwang, side-stepping for his last step. As Hoon Kwang threw his last successive punch, Braden had managed to spin with his side-step, redirecting Hoon Kwang's momentum to throw him off balance and into a practiced fall.

Hoon Kwang rolled forward and was up onto his feet again in such a way that his balance actually favoured the direction from which he was arriving onto his feet. Using this redirected momentum, he delivered a back-kick at Braden, which caught him in his solar plexus and launched him back onto the floor, sliding to a stop. By the time Braden had gotten to his feet again, Hoon Kwang was now flying, in a mid-air spinning kick, one which was as an impressive spectacle as it was a potent attack. Braden narrowly dodged the attack, forward onto his left shoulder while keeping his visual focus on Hoon Kwang as he flew overhead. From this position, Braden quickly launched his own attack, forcing his own right leg upward, hitting Hoon Kwang's hip and sending him off balance for his landing. By the time the whole attack/counter-attack had played out, Braden was up and on his feet, while Hoon Kwang had landed on his side uneasily. The floor beneath them was much more unforgiving than their respective opponents.

Hoon Kwang got to his feet and was ready to face Braden one last time.

"Impressive, for an amateur like yourself. Let's give this one more round to see how we fare?" Hoon Kwang challenged Braden.

Braden was about to reply, only to find himself very quickly on the defensive as Hoon Kwang launched himself into a flying punch, which Braden dodged easily enough, though he'd sacrificed some of his balance doing so. It was this very fact that Hoon Kwang preyed upon, redirecting his momentum at Braden with another well placed front kick. One he'd anticipated would find its mark in Braden's most obvious weak spot.

Instead, Braden caught the kick, and rushed forward with Hoon Kwang's leg, very quickly forcing him to the floor. When Hoon Kwang's back hit the floor, he forced his leg into Braden's stomach, throwing him overhead as he rolled. Braden hit the floor just above Hoon Kwang's head as the two of them rolled into a position where they each had an arm lock on the other.

It was a standoff.

"Very impressive! You have done well with this jeja, Hanshi. I'll give him the submission, if not for your clear impact upon his technique, then for the honour of your school," Hoon Kwang bowed for Braden.

When Braden went to bow to Hoon Kwang, the Tiger bowed even lower.

"Wear it well Braden, for when you begin training under me, I'm going work out all of your problem areas one by one," Hoon Kwang advised the Dragon to be.

The other men stood around the borders of the room, watching as one of their numbers stepped forward.

"Enough of this. I thought we were here for other matters?" asked a man wearing a Gi, adorned with a black belt and four red stripes.

"Sensei Artan is right. We're here because its obvious that the Butterflies are not up to the task of protecting the Temple Of The Butterfly Dragon. That if we, the Dragons, don't act, there may be no temple left to protect, and our long standing history will be lost," another man wearing a Gi with an adorning Hakama stepped forward to address the room.

"You mean Ai Yuanlin Ying? She is gathering valuable intelligence about the nature of our enemy. Intelligence that may give us the insight into a weakness that we need to exploit in order to vanquish them! Perhaps once and for all," Braden defended Heylyn and her plan.

"How can we vanquish something that can get into our very heads, see through our eyes, hear through our ears and sometimes even speak with our voice?" asked Sensei Artan.

"We are not yet certain that this is the case," Hanshi reminded them.

"Braden told us all when we first arrived. He said that this was of tantamount importance to the situation of the Gem. That they may very soon be able to compromise even us, here in this very room. The North American mentors of the Butterfly Dragon. If we're lost, that leaves only Europe and Asia," Sensei Artan continued.

"South America and Oceania too," the man in the Hakama added.

"There aren't any left in South America, just a small handful and Oceania is already working with Asia on this matter," Sensei Artan stated.

"What you're suggesting will divide us even further if we abandon the Yin, just to dominate via the Yang. We'll continue to work with our sisters as we always have, and when the time comes that we need to act, we'll act together, not divided," Hanshi said in a firm voice.

"With Jinn Hua now staying here in this city, you hold no authority above her, and yet you're defending her and our sisters when it is clear that they are not living up to their responsibilities as protectors of this legacy. We've been playing second gun to them for far too long to watch our tradition fall to pieces at the hands of an enemy consumed by the narcissism of the group. If we do not take charge of this matter, all may be lost," Sensei Artan rallied as many of the other mentors under his banner.

"We will not be divided. We are all going to work together on this matter and await Ai Yuanlin Ying's guidance and Jinn Hua's leadership. Are there any here who oppose me on this proposition?" asked Hanshi, looking around the room.

Sensei Artan raised his hand, as did two other instructors. When Hanshi confronted them with his eyes, they slowly lowered their hands and backed away from Sensei Artan.

"Very well. I will find support elsewhere. It is clear that our leadership has stagnated to the point of being ineffectual. Perhaps they are already on the side of our enemy at the gates?" asked Sensei Artan of the others in the room.

"You are free to leave, Sensei, but remember your oath," Hanshi looked firmly to Sensei Artan, who looked away when confronted.

Sensei Artan left the room without another word, as the silence thickened amongst them.

"What now?  If so many of us are already weak to these enemies, how can we ever hope to fight them? To stop them? We can't use our martial arts to fight from our mind," asked Hoon Kwang of Hanshi.

"Can't we?! Our enemies are flesh and blood much like us. They too are susceptible to the same thing. The problem is that they built their army first, when nobody else had any similar capability to protect themselves against it!" Braden responded.

"How can you fight what you can't hit? Their methods are all either some form of body energy that makes people manic or angry, or a social means in that they simply gang up on people and take away their history and identity and start treating them as if they don't exist. How can you fight that?" asked Sensei Shavin.

"We could use the power of numbers?" suggested Braden.

"How so?" Hanshi asked.

"Well, you have to figure that there are more people in Asia than in any other part of the world, and socially speaking, those numbers can support either side of this battle. The side that literally erases people, of the side trying to stop them. When they find out that many of us are connected to a tradition that has long graced the Asian continent, we might be able to find support amongst them. Enough so that they might turn the tide of battle," Braden suggested.

"I have to wonder how long our enemies would last upon experiencing what they dish out to so many others? Would it even be moral for us to entertain such an idea that might see the frail amongst our enemies take their own lives simply because they can't handle it?" asked Sensei Shavin as he adjusted his turban.

"Should we even be sympathetic towards them? How many people who've fallen victim to them have taken their lives? Our enemies didn't stop when asked to show mercy, hence leading to a loss of life. Why should we show any mercy?" asked Sebomnim Juang-Sum.

"Is it even right for us to be making these decisions? Perhaps their victims should be their judge, jury and executioner? I'd bet amongst them, you'd find the most merciful people of all," suggested Braden.

"That would only lead to their victimization again. As soon as word got around that the former victims were being given jury rights over their victimizers, the victims would become victimized again by those trying to sway their decision to either side. One of vengeance or one of mercy. In either case, being manipulated by malicious people that don't respect your right to make decisions based upon your own experience would be an utter hell. If there is any decision to be made about justice, that responsibility should lay with us. We're the only ones sturdy enough to carry that weight, and the only ones skilled enough to confront those who attempt to multiply it, in the absense of a paralyzed judicial system that isn't addressing the problem," Hanshi asserted.

"This only underlines why we need to be having this talk with our sisters present. We're stepping into a very dark and dangerous territory here. One from which there will be no return once we've trodden that path. A path where the Great Dragon Weltherwithsp will abandon us and the other: Witherwyrm will find us," Braden defended his sisters.

"I believe that Hanshi's student has made the greatest leaps of wisdom among us. I for one am with him and will support his motion," Hoon Kwang took his place beside Braden.

"Then I shall play the devil's advocate and move that we retain the power of jury in order to keep the weight off of the victims, and certainly off the shoulders of our sisters," Hanshi offered.

"Then I suggest a compromise. We'll belay taking the power of jury, but at the same time, we'll keep that weight off the shoulders of the victims and our sisters until we've discussed this matter in full with them," Braden took a courageous stand, even challenging the movement of his own Sensei.

Hanshi looked at both Hoon Kwang and Braden, a very intense gaze fell upon them. After a moment, he spoke.

"I cede my motion in favour of Braden's and Hoon Kwang's. Let us be done with this night's proceedings. I think we'll all need a good night's rest for what's to come," Hanshi stated, something somehow keeping him focused on the matters at hand despite the strain on the mind and body of an aging man.

"I am happy with this decision. It certainly rests well upon the conscience," Sebomnim Juang-Sum offered.

"And does justice by our sisters," Sifu Chuang Zhou agreed.

"What about Sensei Artan?" asked Sensei Shavin.

"We should keep an eye on him," suggested Sebomnim Juang-Sum.

"We can't start doing that. The moment we favour distrust over honour is the moment that we fail to represent that for which we stand," Sebomnim Hoon Kwang responded.

"Don't mistake representation for actualization. They're two very different things," Sebomnim Juang-Sum responded.

"Well said. We'll take that advice under advisement. Now, let us be gone from this place and enjoy what we have at home so that we may never find any less passion within us each that we need to muster to defend it," Hanshi adjourned their meeting.

Before long, Hoon Kwang's Dojang was entirely empty except for himself and Braden.

"You can leave. I'll close the place up myself," Hoon Kwang offered.

"Well its still early for me. I was kind of hoping you'd make some time to discuss these matters," Braden suggested.

"You mean us?" asked Hoon Kwang.

"Us... and your former student. Myung?" asked Braden.

"Why us?" asked Hoon Kwang.

"I think that with her vocation that she might have insights that none of us have considered. After all, she is a legal professional. She's sitting in the courts whenever big legal decisions are made, and often those of a very moral nature. I think that her advice would help bring us forward a long way," Braden shared his perspective.

"I think so too. I'll call her and we'll make arrangements to meet up with her. Chicken wings and..." Hoon Kwang began.

" I thought you didn't drink?" confirmed Braden.

"I was going to say cherry cola, but you and Myung can drink a beer. You're definitely one of Hanshi's students," Hoon Kwang smiled.

"I'm a student of life," Braden responded as they went around the building making sure they'd locked all the doors.

The Correlation Of Data

The day was advancing swiftly into night in Halifax, which was one hour ahead of Toronto time. After Doctor Hidbickle had administered Deloise with a sedative, he returned the chimpanzee to her cage to sleep. Along with a small bowl of kiwis, it was the only way that he could make it up to the little primate, for the process of experimentation had been very stressful despite the fact that there was no actual physical contact between Deloise and the BIF (Biomagnetic Field Emitter). 

The whole process of going through the different experiments one by one had been mostly silent, as Doctor Hidbickle's handheld BIF unit didn't make any sound when it was operating. The only way there was for him to know that it was currently broadcasting an artificial biomagnetic field was first by the single digital chirp the unit would sound when the trigger was first depressed, and by the flashing blue LED on the top of the unit. 

When he released the trigger, the blue LED would flash three more times before stopping, while it would produce two final digital chirps in quick succession. Other than these indicators, there was no sound. No giant electrical bolts flashing from the end of the device like something out of Nicolai Tesla's nightmares. No laser beams burning holes in solid metal alloy. There wasn't even so much as an electrical hum. It was simply eerie and silent, and even someone as calm as Doctor Hidbickle himself couldn't help but feeling a bit sinister using it, despite the fact that there was no malice intent in what he was doing.

After he'd returned Deloise to her cage, he quickly made his way back to the MRI Lab, where several workstations, well beyond the MRI's magnetic shielding zone, were processing the data they'd obtained during the conducting of the experiments. He quickly found his way to the one that had been reserved for him and sat down before the keyboard. He then returned the headset to his ears and adjusted the microphone.

"Alright. Deloise is safe in bed and tucked in with a bedtime story and few kiwis to boot. How goes it so far?" asked Doctor Hidbickle of his team members.

"Do you want the good news or the bad news first?" asked Bryce as he examined the data from his end at the Univerity lab in Toronto.

"Start with the bad news. Unless the bad news nullifies the good of the good news. In that case, just don't tell me at all," Doctor Hidbickle returned.

"Alright. There's no signs of Quantum Entanglement being involved between the BIF unit and any portion of Deloise's nervous system, however that doesn't entirely rule out its involvement, but we'll get to that in a bit. What the data does indicate is that the nervous system seems to be very capable of disseminating informormation from highly noisy channels. Far in excess of even our most advanced techniques of filtering noise from an information channel. Zheng found something interesting about that, didn't you?" Bryce began explaining to Doctor Hidbickle, then turning to Zheng ready to hear the explanation she'd elicited earlier.

"Interesting is a good word. From what I've been able to piece together based upon the data we have thus far is that the nervous system seems to excel at rebuilding data from noisy channels as Bryce stated. However, the means by which it is able to achieve this seems to be biological in nature. My best guess as a specialist in Computational Biology is that bifurcation and fractal geometry are playing a big role in how its able to reconstruct an information channel in the presence of such a poor signal to noise ratio. Also, keep in mind that the information Deloise's nervous system was working with was originally recorded from another biological source, meaning that the information is already biologically encoded. Maybe there's embedded error checking in this biological encoding, like a parity channel or grammatical pattern compression that leaves enough of a trail for the receiving end to be able to easily decode it," Zheng explained to Doctor Hidbickle.

"What about the data on hormone levels?" asked Doctor Hidbickle.

"From what I'm seeing here on the screen with the graph taken from your BIF unit's output and overlayed on top of the hormone level over time series, there's a direct correlation between hormone production and the various biomagnetism recordings you were playing back in Deloise's presence. Her nervous system was directly processing the signal from the BIF unit, as if those biological recordings had actually originated in her own body. In other words, you were able to trick her body into producing hormones that affected her emotional state and homeostasis enough to induce both stress and calm to varying degrees. This sort of evidence stands well amidst Psychiatric circles, as its very clearly connected to alterations of hormone levels. They have lots of data from pharmacological research in this area, so this is good evidence. Clearly connected with alterations to cognitive interpretation and behaviour," Doctor Briggs added his perspective as a Sociologist with a background in Asian Culture and Psychiatry.

"That's certainly interesting. Most of what you're saying confirms the research from which my first paper was created, which is good, but did we find anything to help prove your theories or your case?" asked Doctor Hidbickle.

"There's my cue. Alright. Now for a little bit more elaboration on the bad news. We were unable to find any mechanism indicating that Quantum Entanglement is somehow involved, but the fact that we didn't is actually a sort of proof in itself implying that we need to do another experiment," Bryce started.

"How so? I mean if there's no evidence for it, how can that be proof?" asked Doctor Hidbickle, now curious to understand Bryce's reasoning on the matter.

"Like in art when you draw a picture from the negative space. You know, when instead of drawing what's there directly, you draw everything that isn't there, often filling it in with shading. The end result reveals a picture of things that you didn't draw directly yourself. I hope that isn't confusing, but I seem to recall a lesson from one of my Comp-Sci teachers, who was also an artist, using this example to illustrate the difference between direct or implied analysis," Zheng interjected.

"That's a good way of thinking about it, Zheng. I'd say that you have to figure that the BIF unit isn't a nervous system. Its simply a playback device whereas the nervous system deals with input, output and most importantly: throughput. For there to be any possibility that Quantum Entanglement is involved at some biological degree, we need two nervous systems. Not just a playback device and a nervous system. For there to be the presence of entanglement as a medium through which the nervous system can extend itself as an input, output and throughput channel, the entangled objects whether they be particles such as electrons or entire molecules of simple proteins that act as the simple components of resistors and capacitors, this process has to geographically occur within the information throughput channels of the nervous system itself. The nervous system must already have some form of evolution to accommodate this, that integrates Quantum Entanglement as a feature of the nervous system in two highly coupled bodies. Bodies that become coupled by some extreme means that connect them by producing a highly exaggerated biomagnetic field," Bryce explained to Doctor Hidbickle.

"Extreme emotions or experiences are the sum of what seems to be behind this," Doctor Briggs backed up Bryce's theory.

"I think I got Doctor Briggs' point, but care to elaborate how it fits into Bryce's theory?" Doctor Hidbickle asked.

"Extreme experiences, whether they're the result of reaction and response, or self induced, tend to produce the most exaggerated biomagnetic fields emanating from the nervous system which means that the measurable current of voltage drops from neuron to neuron is also highly active. Like the difference you find in a transit system between normal service and rush hour. The spacing between vehicles is tighter, more dense during rush hour. In the case of signaling in neurons, this means more electro-chemical activity and a bigger magnetic field. This also coincides with the production of hormones. Extreme experiences yield extreme amounts of hormones introduced to the body by the endocrine system. When you look at this observation quantitatively, most would come to the conclusion that there is no difference between negative and positive emotions. Quantitatively in terms of hormone levels, they appear the same, albeit with slightly different chemical mixtures. Extreme anger would produce a similar graph quantitatively as extreme affection. So based on that concept alone, there are those who'd argue that such extremes are the exact same thing. Anger is no different from affection, plying that limited logic. However, when you look a bit closer, the truth is that they're very different from one another because the chemical recipe that yields one is completely different from the recipe that yields the other," Doctor Briggs paused for a moment.

"The second reason is that anger is more closely connected to fight or flight syndrome and that evolved response overrides our conscious control of our body. We're more likely to act rather than just think about acting. It evolved to give us an edge physically where an edge logically was a detriment to survival. For instance, its very difficult to ply logic against an eight hundred pound grizzly bear, but a boost in your stamina and a sudden kick of energy might get you away from that same bear so long as your conscious mind doesn't get in the way. Hence the evolutionary advantage of fight or flight syndrome. Now when you experience a positive emotion, like feeling affectionate, your body is in no way close to the state where you could suddenly be pushed into fight or flight syndrome. The hormones are very different and require time to transition from one to the other. Therefore, a person experiencing anger and extreme negative emotions is more likely to lose control than someone who is experiencing highly positive emotions that make them feel good. In either case though, there's a heightened production of hormones and with it, a very heightened level of biomagnetism emanating from the nervous system. Studies like yours Doctor Hidbickle are amongst the first to examine the information density of the nervous system and the information dense biproduct of the nervous system: the human biomagnetic field. Something that has been a foundation in Asian culture for thousands of years," Doctor Briggs explained to Doctor Hidbickle.

"So how does that lead to Quantum Entanglement as a mechanism for communication in the nervous system?" asked Doctor Hidbickle.

"The victims have all reported being affronted verbally but at a distance by the cult members. This verbal assault often includes tidbits of secretive information pertinent to their victim's life. Maybe gotten at by some form of eavesdropping or spying on the victim, or maybe just a very lucky guess. Scammers are very good at sizing up details of their victim's lives, so how could that be any different for members of Habus' or Mentis' cult? Anyway, they continually verbally assault the victim over the course of days and weeks at a time, eventually getting to the point where they're able to stir up responses from their victims. Many of the victims reported at that point experiencing tingling sensations near their glands, which is a telltale sign of hormone production. Bryce's theory relies upon naturally occurring magnetic fields, and during the cult members affront of their victim, there seems to be enough of an account record that these cult members are exploiting this directly. Amplifying their own biomagnetic field enough to affect the body of their victim into producing hormones associated with negative emotional experiences. If a large group of people is affronting you every night for weeks at a time, verbally harassing you, they're building up a large degree of negative emotions in their body, which translates to hormones such as serotonin and cortisol being above or below certain thresholds. If their body's nervous systems are actively in the process of creating instructions in the nervous system to produce or stop producing those hormones..." Doctor Briggs stopped long enough for Bryce to take over.

"...that means that their biomagnetic field also contains that same information. Given the fact that the victim has been explosed to this for weeks already, their nervous system might be attuned to the biomagnetic fields of their attackers, meaning that their body would receive that information, from everyone conducting themselves in that way all at once, and hence the victim's body would start processing that information as if it had originated in their own body. That would mean that their body would suddenly fall way off the scale in terms of their homeostasis. They'd be very susceptible to fight or flight syndrome, or any other condition that found itself reflected in the information throughput of the nervous system. Any system in our body that can be affected by the alteration of our hormone production, and that list is a long one as Doctor Briggs told me," Bryce paused in his summary.

"And Quantum Entanglement?" asked  Doctor Hidbickle.

"The accentuated biomagnetic field produced by the nervous system, interacting at the level of dendrites, with a specific criterion in the form of frequency and field strength, present all of the required phenomenon to produce naturally occurring Entanglement, between the dendrites of single neurons, or entire collections of networked neurons. These mechanisms are possible with the presence of a two way feedback loop between the elements of the source biomagnetic field, and the receiving nervous system which would respond with its own separate communications system embedded in its biomagnetic field. The field strengths are enough for Entanglement to occur, and dendrites already offer the functionality to interact with spin at the particle level via charge. Hence, altering the spin of a remote electron, interacting with its own local dendrite group in either the Axon or the Soma of the neuron. Now if Entanglement is occurring on the molecular level, altering the spin of a group of atoms, that would be enough to alter the voltage state potential of a neuron, because Entanglement could naturally alter the geomtry of a protein or other molecules enough to transition them between being an electrical conductor or an insulator. Alterations to particle spin in itself is enough of a channel through which to share complex information via spooky action at a distance without even having to rely on Cantor sets to make up for poor signal to noise degradation over distance. And there you have it," Bryce smiled, and Doctor Hidbickle could somehow picture him.

"That brings us to the million dollar question and that is, what's the next step?" asked Doctor Hidbickle, fearful that their experiments might end then and there.

"We need to setup another experiment. This time involving two subjects and without the use of your BIF device. We're going to try this out with two human subjects, and one more Doctor," Bryce was already planning the experiment in his head.

"Who are the subjects?" asked Doctor Hidbickle.

"This is where you're going to have to be a little bit of a detective, Doctor Hidbickle. We're going to need someone that meets very specific criterion. Someone that might be found readily via your Department of Psychiatry, or Psychology. A volunteer perhaps? I'll have Doctor Briggs send you the criterion. We've got our subject picked already on this end, the rest is waiting on you on," Bryce encouraged Doctor Hidbickle.

"And who's the new Doctor?" he asked, suddenly perplexed by complex circumstances that had recently arisen.

"Why she'd be my good friend Doctor Alicia Westin," Bryce replied.

Matter And Antimatter

The paper lamps that lined the ceiling around them seemed to brighten as they finished their tea, though it was only Heylyn that observed this effect. At first, she ignored it, thinking it an illusion set upon her by her own pupil, which had possibly contracted and expanding as the candles burned, hence giving the illusion that the light level was fluctuating in the Temple. After a few more moments of silence, she realized that it wasn't an illusion at all. That the lights were really getting dimmer and brighter, deeping the effect as they rebounded from one extreme to the other.

"Is it just me...? Or is..." Heylyn turned to face Ms. Huệ Vân, and then Jinn Hua.

"There is something that you need to see Butterfly. Something special..." Ms. Huệ Vân's brow line furrowed as she looked at Heylyn.

"Something to remind you of the importance of your journey," Jinn Hua added to Ms. Huệ Vân's narrative.

As the lamps reached their dimmest point, the Temple disappeared from view, leaving only stars behind in the darkness. When Heylyn looked down, it appeared she was hovering over the Earth and beneath her the South China Sea at night was illuminated by the coastal lights. The Moon in the distance crossed the path rounding the horizon over Japan as it set for the night.

Slowly, over time, the coastal lights dimmed and the darkness eventually prevailed, but Heylyn could see tiny glowing dots. The first population of the region as it spread. The first settlements became congregations of light, as the land around them was slowly cultivated into the first rice paddies.

Infrastructure and bureacracy followed, and the first centralized cities formed, managing the growth as the land of her youth became ever more populated. Then, came the first Temples as the curious amongst the population began looking to nature and the stars, questioning their origins. Unique forms of architecture arose from their land, and the first Pagodas were built.

 The population by this time was vast and spread throughout the reaches of the empire. Territories began to form and the first wars along with them. Heylyn watched as the people and lands were scarred, then healing to become the first dynasties, and it was from within, that she saw the light of the first Butterfly Dragon.

She was herself a warrior, trained in several different fighting arts, and a slew of visual arts. Her voyages throughout the country created a bright line, that zig zagged to many different places. From each of them, another new line was formed as she'd trained another Butterfly Dragon. They would then spread beyond the borders of an early Dynasty period China, to other countries in Southeast Asia, the light they spread inspired much art and virtue throughout the lands, in their quest to protect innocence.

She watched as at one point, the Butterfly Dragon yielded a separate Butterfly, and a separate Dragon. Each of them racing off across the lands and training more of them, until there was a flurry of them throughout the world.

Then, cutting through the pinkish-red light of the Butterflies, a dark bluish brown convergence closed in upon the first Butterfly Dragon Temple back in China, and one by one, the pinkish-reddish lights began to extinguish one by one. There was a short struggle in some areas, and even instances where the pink-red of the Butterfly Dragon's light won, while in other areas, they fell and their light was replaced by the darkness of a bluish brown swamp of faded colour.

This struggle continued and eventually in Middle Dynastic China, the bluish brown was expunged once and for all, and the pink-red light of the Butterfly Dragon prevailed. In other parts of the world, the Butterfly Dragons didn't fare as well. Region after region fell to this new darkness, until the Butterfly Dragons of the world could only be found in Asia. Where they'd initially started. The bluish brown darkness too eventually faded and was replaced by regional fervor. A spark from within the people to overthrow their oppressors. In some areas, they prevails, and in others, they fell quickly.

But then, something happened. It was as if the same spark that had lit the way for the first Butterfly Dragon in China, had suddenly arisen in other parts of the world. With lost knowledge found, and new wisdom gained, a new generation of Butterflies took up the fight against their oppressors and won. Throughout the world, there was literally a rennaissance, as the passage of time reached the seventeen hundreds. The presence of the Butterfly Dragon was almost everywhere.

New Butterflies began springing up from that point, in a variety of new colours. Some of them, yellow. Some of them green. Some orange and others indigo. Each reflecting a new optimistism, for they were amidst a generation of adventurous souls, out to build humankind's future and prosperity while preserving innocence.

The world at that point was alive with colour, as regions and cultures collided with one another, mixing the great palette of what was to come. Prosperity reigned for many decades and while the light of the Butterfly Dragons remained, it had dimmed considerably from its earlier origins. The rennaissance slowly faded and along with it optimism and ambition.  The world slowly became more and more withdrawn. Distrust had become the prevailing meter of humanity's tempo, as the worker revolution sought recompense from those they saw as exploiting them.

The distrust at that level had also found its like amongst the leadership of mercantile empires, and either side planned its own justification for recompense from the other. Within a few more decades, a shot rang out and a man fell, sparking a war of such ferocity that it literally spread like fire across paper. Soon, the old world was consumed by it, the guiding light of the Butterfly Dragons nearly all but gone, yet humanity's hunger for vengeance was all but absent.

The light of the Butterflies slowly grew, and beside their brothers, the Dragons. With renewed purpose and courage, humanity once again found the heart for peace and the senselessness of war. This  newfound calm remained for nearly a decade and a half before humankind's savagery found its way to its hands once again, picking up arms to undo the injustice of a debt that could never be repaid, imposed upon a people who were not responsible for the reason of its creation. All under the guidance of a despot who expertly manipulated entire generations, though the manipulation in fact was reciprocal. Each were puppets of the other, feeding their desire for generational power and to be liberated from treaty debt. To be of renewed status in the League Of Nations. Innocent, once again.

And yet in their quest for reprieve, it led to some of the worst crimes humanity has ever etched upon its  own sisters and brothers. In the aftermath of war, many millions lay dead, while many millions more died as other countries reconciled their stance on the world stage, reinforcing their sideness on the conflict yet to come. A conflict where both the colours red and blue would be used as world political brands for their party messages. Better dead than red. Kill a commie for mommie. Undo the blue. Real glue is red, blue is long dead.

Even the entire country that had started the war was divided up, with one side turned into a perpetual prison, and the other a bastion for their new world branded message. And yet, the Butterfly Dragons continued to pop up, illuminating the way. Many could see through the prison bars of colours, but some were not so easy to convince. A lifetime of conditioning is not so easily undone in a moment of compassion. To some people, there were simply reds and there were simply blues. Two that were never meant to live as sisters and brothers in arms. And yet, that prison that kept them apart was all in their mind and reinforced constantly by the world state of affairs. For some when it comes to their acceptance of others, the mind is a terrible thing to taste.

As the population continued to grow, expanding into the further reaches of land throughout the continents of the world, a new hidden menace emerged. It first appeared as an absense of light, spreading in much the same way the bluish-brown threat to the Temple of the Butterfly Dragon had arisen during the early Dynasty period in China. 

Heylyn watched as the Butterfly Dragons emerged once again to deal with this new threat, and one by one they fell. The darkness spread like tendrils reaching into light, perhaps grabbing it to extinguish it for good. This darkness emerged first in North America in more than one place at the same time. From each of these locations, it spread with the same pattern as a disease might spread through a pair of lungs.

Heylyn saw that it was easy to discern what was going on in the rest of society, simply by its light. It was like an intuitive measure of the population's focus. Their propensity for meaning and work. Their enjoyment of their environment and time. Their love of nature and family. It was all there, like a feeling she couldn't quite put her finger on. She only knew it entirely when she felt it by focusing on a particular place on the globe.

The tendrils of darkness writhed like the legs of an octopus, spreading along thin lines into populated centers of light. Where ever they found purchase, the lights would soon go out, and Heylyn could no longer detect anything from within. It was as if everyone had just disappeared. However, they were all clearly there, but changed. Different. They were a part of something that wasn't many. It was simply many who'd relinquished their unique identity in the world to become a part of something much bigger. Like the cells in your body, which might have at one time possessed a mind, they now were just automatons of something much bigger. The diversity of colour was gone, and was replaced with darkness.

This continued, and the Butterfly Dragons confronted it one by one, but Heylyn could see that it was a losing battle. They were being overrun everywhere, and soon the entire continent of North America was one big swath of darkness. A few specs of light remained,  Butterfly Dragons who'd managed to avert detection. Some of them regrouped and attempted to overtake this newfound darkness. Others fled overseas. But in North America, the darkness had won.

Heylyn even considered that in one way, her seeing this was simply another brand war. Much like the cold war was a brand war between red and blue, each of which represented its own political paradigm competing for the world stage.

This darkness could have simply been light, and it would have been as voracious and deadly if it had indeed consumed the population, leaving none with their independence of mind. Their individuality. Their very being. Them.

However, she realized that darkness is the absense of light, and that light is composed of many colours combined to become one. Darkness was simply the places that light did not reach, whereas light itself was a product of colour. A product and property of matter, though she hadn't the mind for science that her BFF Alicia had. Heylyn was first an artist, but as much a dreamer as Alicia. Perhaps that was the common ground they shared. Regardless, it was the light that drove them to be. To succeed. To grow and to share.

This darkness had no concept of anything but its own self. Anything that opposed that concept, it would devour, and devour it did.

On a jet from New York to London, one of the tendrils spread into Europe. It quickly devoured the light of London, (Including Shepperton by the Thames, where a certain pair of Witches, one of nature and the other of shadows managed to escape) and then spread through the British Isles one by one, consuming them until there was no light left. No individual mind that could challenge this monstronsity Heylyn was seeing from an orbital view above the Earth.

The tendrils then spread into France beyond the Notre Dame and into Norway, devouring them each into the darkness of the absense of knowledge. Soon the conflicts ablaze in Europe were ceased as they focused on the new threat. There seemed to be an alliance between the countries of Europe, the Meditteranean, the Baltic states and even into the Middle East. They all allied with the Butterfly Dragons together, and fought the spreading darkness. But alas, even allied, it was too late. They'd missed something. An opportunity when this threat had found root in North America. By that time once it had spread beyond the threshold, it was already too late. Like a Cancer beyond the ability of Surgeons to treat. Yet, the spirit of these regions was strong and they fought valiantly in a war for which they were never prepared. But in the end, they fell one by one.

When the tendrils spread into Africa, the continent became ablaze with war. Chaos reigned, and long held treaties were dropped as trust became an impossible to obtain commodity. Militias rose, and fought against their neighbours, but the tendrils of darkness found them too. And one by one the countries of the continent fell. What had happened remained hidden within the darkness, and Heylyn trembled when she throught about it.

The tendrils by that time had branched into places throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. Egypt fell first, the pyramids consumed quickly by the darkness, and Heyly considered that even the oldest of humanity's monuments were nothing against such a horrible fate.

Saudi Arabia mounted a spirited defense, their bravest warriors surrounding Mecca and ready to face the coming darkness. When it came at them, it did not fight with weapons with which they were familiar. It fought an entirely new kind of warfare against which few could ever be truly prepared. Few except for perhaps the remaining Butterfly Dragons.

In Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, they drew heavily upon the Vedas, deliving into long lost Sanscrit scriptures in an attempt to seek knowledge that might liberate them from the coming threat, for none who'd faced it had written tell of it. The world still free was as in the dark as the world consumed, and all because those who'd raised their voices early had been silenced by those they were trying to save. Skepticism had found its deserved place on the side of the darkness and had become one of its greatest allies.

There were many great warriors in India, Malaysia and Indonesia who lived through many battles, for they were amongst the few truly prepared for the kind of warfare the darkness had intended. A warfare not only of the body, but of the mind and in ways few could fathom.

Yogis, Gurus and Rajas led the defense, and fought valiantly, giving their new enemy the most gruelling battle they'd yet encountered, even driving them into retreat in several instances. Yet, their numbers were far too few to mount the kind of defense they'd needed to succeed against an enemy that was consuming the entire world. The lines in India held by far the longest in Middle Asia thanks to support from Malaysia and Indonesia, but after years of gruelling battles beyond the imagination of most mortals, they too fell.

By this time, the Asian Alliance had mounted one of the most concerted efforts to re-educate the populace in the matters of mind and body through traditions that it had long neglected. During the battles in India, Malaysia and Indonesia, the remaining Asian Alliance had been able to determine that this was full fledged body energy warfare. That the assailants had ascended to become the most capable in the use of this little understood aspect of the human connection to the universe. And yet, a small army of Yogis, Gurus and Rajas had managed to keep their entire force at bay for nearly nine years. These few had defended and bought valuable time for the remaining conscious population of the world. The Asian Alliance promised that it would honour their valiant effort and liberate them first, once they'd vanquished this godlike enemy.

The Temple Of The Butterfly Dragon in GuangZhou would be the one of the key training centers, however their efforts would not focus solely on physical combat skills, but instead on reinforcing the mind and body connection. Discipline necessary to overcome the worst pain and fear anyone had ever experienced, for this warfare was not of the body or mind alone, but of both. A warfare of endurance. A warfare of sheer will.

Heylyn was now alone, perhaps Ms. Huệ Vân and Jinn Hua were with her in some capacity, but there was no guidance. Only silence greeted her as she watched and felt the last of humanity struggle for the retention of their right to claim themselves as individuals in a sea of consciousness and together cooperating as individuals in such a sea to protect their a world.

The forces throughout Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia prepared themselves while reinforcements were readied in Korea (both North and South together in the face of a common enemy). China, Kazakhstan, Nepal, the Philipines, Japan, Java, Fiji, Bali and New Zealand were preparing a second front, while loading a force onto transports that would assist Australia as the last bastion of conscious humanity.

Heylyn watched from above, like a Goddess as the lines were drawn and the first battle was about to begin. The Butterfly Dragons of GuangZhou separated into two forces. The ones who would take up the front lines in Thailand, and the others who would help hold Australia as the last hope of a freely conscious humanity.

Suddenly, clouds covered the Earth and Heyly could no longer see what was going to happen. Her vision faded, and she once again awoke above the Earth, in much the same position as she'd been before.

The face of the Earth was entirely dark for it had been consumed by the darkness. Everything she'd known and loved was gone and the great battle of all was done. It was over. There was literally nothing left to live for.

As the sun rose, a tremendous Dragon flew over the horizon with the sun. It was clearly Weltherwithsp. Heylyn quickly looked to the night side of the Earth and saw Witherwyrm slithering its way around the planet towards Weltherwithsp. As they approached one another, they grew in size until the Earth was entirely covered by the two of them together.

"And so once again, the end must become the beginning..." Weltherwithsp elicited fiercely in its native Dragon tongue to its counterpart Dragon.

"And the beginning the end...  as it always has..." Witherwyrm's deep Draconic voice pierced the heavens.

"And yet, someday, they may pass this point and flourish, throughout the solar system and beyond into the galaxy," Weltherwithsip seemed disappointed, perhaps even saddened by the loss of so much of over the course of billions of years.

Which for either Dragon had passed from either direction of time, in the blink of an eye.

The Two Dragons encircled the planet now entirely dead of consciousness. Where billions of minds had once thrived, there was only one black narcissistic mass of solitary mind.

Heylyn then witnessed what appeared to be a large black hole, much like she'd seen in renderings of them in Global Space Agency news clips. A light halo had wrapped itself, folded through space and time around the behemoth.

Inside of the black hole, Heylyn could somehow detected that Withwyrm was within, if that was even possible. Perhaps she thought, Witherwyrm was the inside of an enormous black hole, and Weltherwithsp, who somehow circled it outside of its event horizon, was everything else.

Weltherwithsp looked to Heylyn, and for the first time in her life, she saw the Dragon shed a tear.

It circled the black hole one last time, and then the event horizon became Witherwyrm. In their last moments, the two collided with one another. One matter. One antimatter. Upon their meeting, the entire universe folding not outward, but inward upon itself. Ever shrinking from Heylyn's perspective. It wasn't an explosion. A big bang so much. It was an implosion and all matter and space in the universe was suddenly converging upon one point.

Trillions of galaxies. Trillions off billions of stars and countless other subatomic particles found their way in a straight line (curved according to Einstein's equations of General Relativity and coupled by recent discoveries of Twisted Time-Space), everything fell towards one infinitely small point.

And then all of the sudden, Heylyn realized that what she was seeing was in fact space folded in such a way that it was the inverse of a big bang. A universe that instead of growing and expanding, shrunk towards an infintesmally small point. If, by some chance, in this new universe something had arised to become conscious, their awareness of this would be similar to ours of our expandinging universe. The entire cycle of life would begin again and Weltherwithsp and Witherwyrm would once again wait patiently for the first conscious life to arise. From that point, their game would continued...

"Do you see Butterfly, the importance of what is at stake?" Jinn Hua looked to Heylyn, who was beyond her ability to express what she'd just witnessed.

"All of it will have been for nothing. Now do you understand the importance of what it is for humanity to realize their purpose before this happens again?" Ms. Huệ Vân pleaded with Heylyn.

"You mean that this isn't the first time?" asked Heylyn, nearly in shock.

"No and yes," Ms. Huệ Vân replied.

"How so?" Heylyn asked her mentors.

"No, this isn't the first time a consciousness in an emergent universe has failed against Mentis..." Ms. Huệ Vân answered half of Heylyn's question.

"Yes, this is the first time that your humanity is facing this threat. Stand or fall, Butterfly. Stand or fall," Jinn Hua looked upon her student, and her greatest hope for humanity.

Dinner Guests

Monique and Aikiko sat at the patio, their recently cleared plates before them. The waitress stepped out of the restaurant and over to the patio to clear their table.

"Can I get you anything else? Another Gin and Tonic?" she asked Monique.

"One more wouldn't hurt, thank you," Monique replied, taking the skewered lemon slice from her last drink and popping it into her mouth.

"Can I get you anything?" the waitress turned to Aikiko.

"I'll have another Soju," Aikiko replied.

With that, the waitress left them and returned to the restaurant area to fill their request. Without the food in front of them to keep their focus, they started to notice the people around them. The others on the same patio with them.

It was as if both Monique and Aikiko were both being scrutinized by many of the other patrons. A few of them looked suspiciously over to Monique, who returned nothing more than a smile, which seemed to agravate them that much more.

"You noticed it too?" confirmed Aikiko of Monique.

"Only just now. Have they been paying attention to us like that the whole time? Did you notice?" asked Monique.

"I noticed it about halfway through our dinner, though there seems to be other patrons who are the subject of their interest as well," Aikiko indicated another table of people withoutt being rude, who also seemed to be in the interest of those that had taken an interest in them.

"Well, at least we're not alone," Monique smiled uneasily.

"I'm a little bit nervous, especially with all of what we've been discussing at our weekly meetings. Could they be them?" asked Aikiko suspiciously.

It was at that point that Monique overheard the conversation at their table.

", not all runway models have big secrets. Just her..." one of them women at the table said to the others at the same table.

"...I wonder what her ex thinks of her now? Apparently she's a slob, at least in her bedroom... Leaves her undergarments on the floor for a week before she does her wash..." another one at the same table spoke.

Monique suddenly became agitated, perhaps even upset. She adjusted her chair enough to face the table that had made those comments before she spoke up.

"I work hard as a model! I don't have someone around to clean up after me! So what if I can't get around to doing my wash every single day?!!" Monique exclaimed to them, walking right into their trap.

At that point, one of the men at the table turned around to face her. He was a large intimidating fellow in his early thirties, sporting a brand name golf shirt with the collar slightly turned up. A thin layer of facial hair covered much of his face.

"I'm sorry, were you speaking to us?" he confronted Monique in a very intimidating manner.

"Yes!..." Monique replied, unperterbed by his size and demeanor.

"Monique! This isn't the time nor the place to do this..." Aikiko pleaded quietly to Monique.

"So you were spying on our conversation then?" the man confronted Monique again.

"I wasn't spying at all! I was talking with my friend here and your voices were loud enough to hear across the street! Not to mention, you sounded like you were talking about something directly related to my private life! I'm a model you know!" Monique replied, slightly raising her voice.

"I suppose that you think that you're above the rest of us working chumps, do you?" he didn't back off.

Aikiko could quickly see how Monique had been, and was currently being played by the people at that table. They were clearly trying to make a scene that had directly targeted Monique.

"My parents were working chumps! So was I before I became a Model!" Monique responded, her temper beginning to flare.

"Monique...!" Aikiko pleaded with her friend.

"I suppose daddy's little girl is a little bitter with her parents for making her work her way to a career?" the man turned his chair around to face Monique completely, while the rest at the table cheered him on.

"What a complete jerk! Modeling is some of the most gruelling work! You're only basing your judgement on one side of it! You try working in a line of work where everyone is watching you all the time while you work and where the product is at least in part, you! If I had a nickel for every time a jerk like you made a snide remark like that, I'd be a billionaire by now!" Monique's voice raised yet again.

"Monique!" Aikiko spoke louder this time, even standing.

"This isn't our fault Aikiko! They had no right to do that!" Monique faced her friend.

"You spied on us. Now we're going to spy on you. Let's see how you feel after a few weeks of that," the man threatened her.

"Lady, you picked the wrong fight. Spying is our business," one of the women at the table added, backing up the man's threat.

It was at that point that Monique recognized the crest on the man's golf shirt. It was an open eye, with the globe as the iris. Beneath the logo was written the line: Always On Security.

"That's what I was trying to tell you Monique! They're from AOS!" Aikiko leaned over the table, closer to her friend's ears.

By that time, the man had turned his chair around to face his own table. Monique's mouth fell open as she realized what had just happened.

"The tabloids hire them all the time to dig up dirt on people..." Monique said in sudden realization.

"Its not so much what they'll do to you Monique. You're used to this. You've developed a thick skin to it. Thicker than most other people. We have to be worried for the rest of the employees at West Meet East now. The ones who don't live in condominiums with their own private security. The ones whose lives have never been an open book to the kinds of leeches that would prey upon a person's most private moments and exploit them to destroy lives and careers..." Aikiko explained to Monique very quietly.

"They just played me like I was an amateur..." Monique responded quietly, still in amazement of what had just happened.

"They set that up... How the hell did they know that about my lifestyle? I don't have time to throw my bra and underwear into the wash every time I change!" Monique sat down as the waitress returned with their drinks.

"Maybe an ex-lover of yours told them? Maybe they made a lucky guess, because you're not the only woman that doesn't have time to immediately take care of mundane tasks like that you know. A little bit of clutter never hurt anyone, but they used that to hit a soft spot on you," Aikiko suggested.

"Here's your drinks," the waitress returned, placing Monique's Gin And Tonic and Aikiko's Soju on the table before them.

"Thank you. Uh, you wouldn't happen to know if they come here frequently, would you?" Monique asked the waitress, pointing to the table occupied by the employees of AOS.

"No. That's the first time they've been here. At least on my shift. Why, did anything happen?" aske the waitress, who'd known Monique for quite some time as a customer of their restaurant.

Monique leaned in a bit closer to the waitress.

"Pretend you don't know me and don't tell them a thing if they ask. That's for your protection and mine," Monique told the waitress.

"Alright. Will that be all for today M'aam?" the waitress responded, immediately applying what Monique had suggested.

"Sure, just bring us our bill, thanks," Monique requested and with that the waitress returned to the interior of the restaurant.

"We've got to tell the Boss..." Aikiko said to Monique, avoiding using Heylyn's name.

"I'll tell her tonight when I see her. She's our neighbour, remember?" Monique reminded Aikiko, very quietly.

As they each took the first sip of their drinks, trying to calm down after a tense situation, two men from inside of the restaurant walked over to the table and introduced themselves.

"You two look like you could use some light hearted company. Maybe even a smile or two," the first man spoke, drawing both Aikiko's and Monique's attention.

Monique looked first and saw a handsomely boyish clean-shaven face, though the crows feet around his eyes and the salt and pepper colour of his hair indicated that he was either older than he looked, or just spent much of his time in the sun.

The second had blonde hair, cut in a mullet style reasonably long at the back. He sported a very seventies looking moustache which was well trimmed and  shaped to match his features.

The scent of expensive cologne hit both Monique and Aikiko at the same time, and consequently they both blushed slightly.

Monique looked to Aikiko quizzically, who nodded once affirmatively.

"Sure, as long as you BYOC," Monique responded with an uneasy smile.

"BYOC?" askd the blonde haired man.

"Bring your own...chair?" the other man confirmed with Monique.

"You got it!" Monique smiled, as the other three laughed.

They went over to the only empty table at the patio and grabbed up two chairs from it, returning quickly and placing themselves strategically between Monique and Aikiko and the AOS table.

Aikiko and Monique smiled at each other.

"You just earned yourselves a point there," Monique spoke.

"I heard something earlier from inside while we were at the bar. Was there trouble?" asked the man with dark hair.

"You could say that. A little tense but everything seems to be looking up now," Monique replied.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm Mr. H., and this is my good friend Sterling," Mr. H introduced them.

"Mr. H? Interesting. Anyway, I'm Monique and this is my good friend Aikiko," Monique introduced them to their guests.

"Aikiko... is that Japanese?" asked Sterling.

"From Osaka Prefecture. Yes..." Aikiko said shyly, lowering her head a few times as she covered her mouth with her hand.

"Mr. H, is that some kind of anagram for something?" asked Monique.

"You could say that. Its just more convenient," he smiled at her.

"Alright. That's cute. I like it," Monique flirted and the four of them had another sip together.

They continued their conversation for the next two hours, and the table of AOS employees left sometime into the first half-hour, easing their conversation greatly beyond that point.

Into the second hour and both Monique and Aikiko were laughing freely at the wit of the two, whose charm and timing seemed to be spot on.

By the time two hours had passed, Aikiko and Monique taken a trip to the bathroom together where they discussed their possibilties beyond that point. They agreed that they'd invite their guests back to Monique's condo and take it from there. After all, the both of them were prepared to handle any situation that could present itself to them, while Mr. H and Sterling seemed like perfect gentlemen. Not only that, but both Monique and Aikiko found them to be very attractive.

They left together after leaving a generous tip for their waitress, quickly flagging a taxi van along Queen Street.

They all piled into the back of the taxi, each couple taking one of the facing bench seats. After they'd gotten their seatbelts on, Mr. H closed in on Monique for a kiss, which she gave to him willingly and passionately. After three minutes of kissing without coming up for air, they parted lips and took a moment to enjoy it.

"So are you going to tell me what Mr. H means?" asked Monique, in a deeply sensual voice.

 "Promise you won't laugh?" he replied quietly.

"I promise... is it like a hippy millennial name?" she smiled, stifling a giggle.

"No, no. Its nothing like that..." he moved in closer and rubber her nose with his.

"Then what is it? Tell me...?" Monique begged him.

"Its... Habus. Habus Macill," he replied.

To be continued in The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies - Episode 8

PS: I've never been in a relationship with a Chinese woman that had a "bob" haircut, with all due respect. I certainly think that "bob" haircuts look nice on some women, but I also believe that whomever assumes that the woman with whom I was in a relationship during 2006 had a "bob" haircut is sorely mistaken. 

Sometimes mistaken identity can be a very harmful thing for all involved, not to mention its never a good thing to tread harshly and in a gossiping manner about a woman's personal and romantic life, especially when no such involvement ever took place. 

I was involved over the course of 2006 with a Chinese woman, but that is between myself and the woman with whom I was involved, and I am making that statement without borrowing or taking from anyone else's identity. My love interest is from China, though a resident of Canada. There are those who'd bitterly try to interpose between us, and use political conflict to impose a divide between us, despite the fact that neither her nor I hold any ill towards any part of Southeast Asia.

Credits and attribution:

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastly, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...

Tools: Daz3DCorel PainterAdobe PhotoshopLightwave 3DBlender, Borderline Obsession...

Scientific References And Bibliography


Max Planck Institute For Biological Cybernetics
Signal-to-Noise Ratio and MR Tissue Parameters in Human Brain Imaging at 3, 7, and 9.4 Tesla Using Current Receive Coil Arrays

PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy Of Science)
Signal To Noise Ratio Of Neurons

National Library Of Medicine
Accupuncture: Past, Present And Future
Detecting Extraordinary Large Bio-Magnetic Field Strength From Hand During External Qi Emission

Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation
Various sources available at website
Virtual Exhibit Hall

知乎 (Zhihu - Where There Are Questions, There Are Answers)
A Quantum Model Of Human Consciousness Translated

Eastern Medicine And Martial Arts References And Bibliography

YMAA Publication Center

Chadi: The Gentle Way

Jymoon Tae Kwon Do

Bruce Lee

Music References And Bibliography

The song that Heylyn relies upon introspectively during the chapter Sifu And Student is Summoning the Element of Water from the album New Land by Ascendant.

The song that Mutano listens to in his condominium in the chapter A Way Into West Meet East is called 傀儡謡-怨恨みて散る (Disappear With Grudge), and was written and composed by Kenji Kawai.

John Paul Young And The Cardboard Brains are featured in the chapter The Mad Scientist and Correlation Of Data.