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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:04 pm

Chapter 10

 

To distract from his disquiet, Daniel immersed himself in the world of micro chemistry. They had been granted permission to engage in further experimentation on what was now a government owned secret. Various agencies had been involved in boosting their security and now everyone wore identification pass cards, guards were posted and the whole building was monitored.

Their molecular carbon lattice circuit was beginning to show even more promise and the fabled ‘buckyball’ was now beginning to replicate in long chain fullerene nanotubes in their custom built vacuum arc chamber; and generally conforming to a prescribed architecture. Vaporised Carbon was starting to behave in more predictable ways as they tweaked the electrical charge and positioned micro metallic particles.

Their magnetic alloy catalyst promoted the rapid formation of the molecular sized hollow carbon tubes and behaved far beyond previously published results. Daniel was researching and drafting documents to accredit the linked catalyst as a proprietary product. The whole lab was abuzz with speculation as microscopic gold tipped connectors were trialled to link with bundles of miniscule fibres.

At the height of the experimental fervour gripping the lab—as Daniel ran some initial integer factorisation algorithms—he mentioned to his leadership group that he was heading off to north east Africa. ‘It wasn’t possible’, they told him; so close to a breakthrough. Without going into details, Daniel informed them that it was a family crisis and that his trip was unavoidable.

Max, who was in the know to some degree, asked him if it had to do with the information that he had been after. He assented with a small head movement. Some muted offers of assistance followed when his co-workers saw that his mind was made up. Questions followed but apart from conceding that his father needed him he didn’t elaborate.

Later, just before leaving his office, Daniel confided in Gavin and Max that Reuben would be his best point of contact. Also, if anything happened to him, Reuben was instructed to transfer the business to the both of them.

Of course, all Daniel had achieved by saying that was to agitate his friends. They tried to dissuade him from any reckless jaunt into the third world. The more conservative of the two said he’d contact the State Department. Daniel fixed him with a stern gaze, “Gavin, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe my father was…” he paused to prevent himself from saying ‘in danger’, then substituted a milder phrase; “… was in need of my help.”

                                                …………………………….

 

It had been two weeks since Reuben’s office had been left with the travel arrangements. Naomi had spent some time in interviews with the relevant supporting mission organisation, getting their commendation for a short term stint in Somaliland. She asked for letters to confirm their support given that Aunt Marcie had promised to underwrite all her costs. Allowing that she had committed to travel anyway, and because the need was great, they acceded to giving qualified support for a trial period, leaving Doctor Richard Treloar to assess her usefulness. It was a case of; ‘feel free to visit and they may be able to use you’.

Once Naomi had their support, visas for the both of them were obtained.

                                           ----------------------------------

 

It was early on a Wednesday morning when Daniel and Naomi boarded an Air Canada flight, ultimately headed for Dubai. The short flight on a twin prop De Havilland to Montreal prefaced a lengthy layover.

Convinced by a Gallic taxi driver, who exhibited irresistible entrepreneurial flair, to allow him to escort them around his newly adopted home; they sat in the back seat and listened to his patter.

At first they visited the Expo Biosphere on Sainte-Hélène Island. Following that, Simone, the driver, waxed lyrical in his heavy French accent as they were being driven around the old city. It felt like he was providing travel commentary for an organised tour.

As a self-proclaimed bon vivant, he thought it proper that he should join them for a late meal in Montreal’s underground shopping precinct. It was ‘off the clock’ and a chance for Simone to show off some of the city’s culinary delights. The food sampling ended a pleasant distraction from the ordeal ahead.

 

During the flight from Montreal to Frankfurt, they endured more than seven hours of fitful slumber. Neither had the energy to take advantage of the seven hour layover there, so they sat and read, snoozed and talked the time away in one of the airport lounges.

Daniel reflected to Naomi that his company may be on the verge of one of the greatest breakthroughs in molecular circuitry and, meanwhile, he was on some private pilgrimage. He read her some texts from Max describing a few minor setbacks, and he suggested by his manner that things might have gone smoother if he’d been there.

Was it so important, she pressed, given the current situation? Daniel agreed but still went on and described, in simple terms, the revolution to micro circuitry; the increase in processing speed nanotubes could bring and the thrill of being involved in cutting edge technology.  Naomi nodded as she acknowledged his enthusiasm with something less than the hype he conveyed.

When he realised that she was underwhelmed by his passion, he meekly defended that it also provided him with a good living; especially of late. She responded that, though obsession was part of invention, what he was doing now in supporting a family relationship was on a higher plane altogether.

As the time for their departure drew nearer, both retreated into reading. Hers was documentation relating to the expectations of what she was to do in Hargeisa. It provided some orientation information about customs and conditions; what to do and what not to do.

Daniel pulled out the pocket bible he’d been given. In a disconcerting turn of events he found himself reading Matthew 16. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” It was challenging his way of life. Particularly telling was Jesus’ rebuke to Peter: “you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

That was him. He was totally absorbed with his own concerns. It was only now, when he was aware that his preoccupation with technological innovation had somehow sucked in family members and jeopardised their safety that he ventured away from the security and approval of his Bostonian life.

He jumped as Naomi’s hand clutched his knee. She had spoken twice and then resorted to the interventional touch to alert him to their flight call. His reaction gave her a start as well.

“Are you ticklish?” she queried not able to conceal a smirk as she said it.

“No comment,” he replied softly. He placed the bible in his jacket pocket.

“We should go. That’s our flight.” She was still looking pleased with herself that he had given away a vulnerability that he was bashful about. They both stood. While he stretched, a little jab to his side and his corresponding baulk had her giggling.

The nine hour flight to Dubai was spent sleeping sporadically as fatigue caught up with them. The darkening sky insisted on some sort of predictable circadian response. Rousing from the numbness of travel slumber by a weight on his shoulder, Daniel turned and gazed into Naomi’s face resting against him. Her complexion was smooth and delicate; her expression tranquil, totally untrammelled by the cares of the world. He wanted to caress her cheek and ease a stray lock of hair away from her eyes, but he just watched.

The contentment she seemed to embody had him reaching for the pocket bible again. What was the mysterious power of this text that had adherents living an other-worldly mission?

Once he found the passage he’d been examining, he thumbed back through those confronting words… “deny himself.” Until recently it had never occurred to him that he wasn’t the centre of the universe. Not in the sense of megalomania or egotism, but just in the way all his thinking referred to himself as the frame of reference. The idea that you could be defined by how you lived for others was shockingly refreshing and perplexing at the same time. It assumed a greater reality. He sat back and observed the closing act of the flight, strangely captivated by the proximity of his companion.

The pitch black of the desert night was punctuated by tiny pinpricks of fishing boat lights visible to the airliner, before descending in an arc over the land. Several clusters of coastal towns merged and Daniel felt they were being invaded by a swathe of glimmering city lights.

Glowing glass spires of oil financed construction greeted them as they emerged from the airport and looked across the city’s west. At one am Dubai time there was some traffic, but mainly airport related. They took the metro to the Emirates Towers Hotel and were soon booked in, settled and sound asleep in their rooms.

At eight thirty in the morning Naomi appeared, pyjama clad from her adjoining deluxe suite.

“This must have cost you a fortune,” she squealed.

Daniel raised his head from the luxurious pillow and tried to clear the fog of sleep from his bleary eyes. He felt a warmth flow through him as he appreciated her flannelled form.

“Reuben’s idea; a couple of days of luxury before we endure the harsh deprivations of the third world,” he grinned. “But it was surprisingly reasonable compared to some of the places… and the bank balance is looking healthy these days.”

She tilted her head attractively. “So your deals came through?”

“Uh, huh… even more than I could have hoped. It’s weird though; I had an empty feeling about it all until I started experimenting on the carbon lattices. I think it’s the research… the discovery that gives me a kick.”

Naomi looked back with a knowing peculiar smile. “So how come I get the suite? This would have been fine.”

“You’re the talent on this venture. I’m just tagging along. Anyway, you’re my guest.”

Naomi drew back self-consciously as she felt his scrutiny. “So what are we doing for breakfast?”

Realising he’d been staring; he turned and examined the hotel information folder.

“Ah, they have several restaurants… what about this place?” He showed her a picture of a modern looking cafeteria that offered meals anytime. After shuffling over and leaning towards him a little closer she gave a quick glance.

“Uh huh,” she gave her approval and then escaped with a promise to be showered and ready within the hour.

 

With time at his disposal, Daniel revelled in a long hot shower. Slowly dressing for hotter climes, he was a picture of abstraction. Pensively, he stood at the window and hardly registered the view as he considered the plight his ill-conceived article had gotten them into. Heralding their quantum capable circuitry was his idea. His company could have discreetly communicated their ideas, but he, with his inflated ego, chose to publish.

While he sought to castigate himself once more for his past indiscretions the connecting doorway opened and Naomi stood fresh and youthful in a light floral cotton dress. He glanced across at her and the turgid ruminations fled from his mind.

“Wow,” he said throatily.

She coloured slightly and did a little spin. “So you like it?”

“You look… beautiful.” Even as he said it, it sounded corny and affected. “What’s with the papers?” He nodded at the file in her hand.

“Just some documentation about the mission hospital we’re being sent to.”

“It’s a mission hospital?”

“Yes, it seems sometimes secular and church NGOs collaborate in the less glamorous, out of the way, humanitarian stations.”

“So what have you learnt so far?”

Her brow creased, “Well, they report that one in five displaced children die before their fifth birthday.”

Daniel stared ahead blankly as if there was something beyond that he could see. He gave a slow shake of the head. “But that’s not why I’m here, really… is it? We’ve got to find my father, to warn him.”

A slight shadow passed across her face as she interpreted his response as ambivalence, rather than outright denial. Her expression softened. Maybe in the same situation she would do whatever it took to protect her father.

He stammered, “I don’t deny it’s important, it’s…it’s just that…”

His faltering words betrayed the turmoil of his thoughts. They were ignited by the phrase ‘deny yourself’.

 “You okay?” her words were soft, compassionate as his face contorted with the emotion that filled him. He had endangered his family and he had endangered his friends. He was now rushing in to make things right, but his father may reject his intervention because he too was part of this other world domain; this humanitarian dimension where ‘displaced children’—refugees—were central to their lives.

Most breakfasters had finished by the time they arrived at the contemporary eatery. Tourists would be rushing to the Burj Khalifa, or the cruises to the Palm and World islands, or visiting the shopping malls and the beaches. In the peace and quiet, Daniel and Naomi had a leisurely breakfast.

Their flight to Hargeisa wouldn’t be till six the following day so they had plenty of time to chat and then do a bit of sightseeing. Reuben, or maybe it was Gracie, had booked tickets to the Burj for them. It would be a fitting end to the day to have a meal high up in the world’s tallest building.

Following their meal Naomi took Daniel exploring.  The shopping precinct of the building was far too tempting to pass up. Walking around enjoying each other’s company, sometimes playful, sometimes subdued and reflective; unconsciously they began behaving like a couple.

An afternoon swim in the pool had them both almost in holiday mode. The vagaries of the quest were behind them and the unknown of Somaliland seemed too distant to consider in this enclave of wealth and modern living.

It was the first time in a while that Naomi saw Daniel enjoying himself and relaxing. She recalled that the last time he had been like that she had brought his mood to an abrupt end by telling him of her mission plans.

                                                ------------------------------------

 

It was about five thirty in the evening when Daniel called on Naomi for their ‘dinner date’. She had some calls to make before they left so he spoke with his lawyer to gain news and thank him for their travel arrangements. At the same time Naomi called Marcie and she learned about the Trust proposal. It was up to them to identify worthwhile charities. There was some interchange to try and clarify what that meant. Marcie assured her that appropriate advice would be available once they commenced the trust.

Daniel sent emails to his brother and Marcie just to let them know of their whereabouts. After that he contacted Gavin to hear of the progress with the new carbon fibre process. He was informed that they were trialling some minor adjustments to iron out discontinuities in the circuits and all was reported to be going to plan.

The evening was an incredible experience. Ascending high up in the Burj Khalifa, which dwarfed the other, numerous, almost linearly arranged, sky scrapers, they saw the sun set on the shimmering Persian Gulf.

Observing the man-made residence and resort islands off the coast was a surreal experience; knowing that engineering, human effort and a lot of money had created these geographic extensions, provided a stark contrast to their ultimate destination described in Naomi’s induction material.

Daniel and Naomi wandered around the perimeter of the observation deck. Their quiet stroll, hand in hand was both intimate and innocent. Looking into each other’s eyes and then drinking in the wonders of human ingenuity, a certain unspoken bonding was taking place. They did two circuits before going down two levels to the restaurant.

The dining experience was memorable. With the lights from downtown Dubai glittering below them and the silvery, waning moon shining off the gulf. The intimate mood had Naomi subdued and reflective. She warmed when he mentioned that he was intrigued by the language of the bible and felt he understood Christians a little better. She replied that it was part of the journey of seekers to be ‘intrigued’.

“Oh, I don’t think I could ever be a Christian… ‘taking up your cross and denying yourself!’ It’s all a bit hard for someone as self-centred as me. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t do it.”

Naomi’s eyes glistened with laughter.

“You don’t try… you surrender… you have to change sides first and find out what it’s all about. Then, when you’re committed, you’re empowered by Jesus’ spirit to live the way He wants you to live. And then the trying, the striving comes through His strength.”

 He smiled. “It almost makes sense when you say it. I guess the surrendering is the hard part for me.”

Naomi nodded, “That’s the biggy… and only you can decide when you’re ready to surrender.”

“Or if I’m ever ready.” He pulled a tight smile.

“Uh huh.” She played with her food thoughtfully. “So what do you think of Jesus?”

Daniel took a deep breath, “Wow… straight in there with the tough questions.” He furrowed his brow. “If you’d asked me that six months ago I would have just brushed you off as part of the religious fringe, but I guess I’m a bit more informed, and now I honestly have to say… I don’t know.”

 

Naomi hesitated as if considering whether to go on. “If He’s who He says He is then saying things like…” she concentrated for a moment, “like ‘what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul?’ really is a crucial question.”

Daniel looked bemused. “That sounds like what I read the other day.” He paged through the tiny print version of the bible that fitted in his coat pocket. “Here it is. This says, What good is it…”

“It’s the same verse. I just learned it in an older version.” She took a last mouthful and wiped her mouth with the napkin.

Daniel was struck once again by her fresh faced beauty. The words seated in his memory.

What shall it profit a man? I think I like that version better. Everyone’s after a profit. It makes Jesus sort of a profit prophet.” Naomi rolled her eyes. “No, I’m serious,” he added. “He’s saying where true profit exists… and by deduction it’s not in this world.”

“The profit prophet, hey?” Her eyes sparkled and the dimple caved into her cheek as her smile broadened.

Naomi suddenly stood up. She had a concerned look on her face.

“Hey, we’ve an early start tomorrow. Come on we should go.” She reached out with her hand and he readily grasped it as he rose to follow.  He drew close to her side as they strolled to the window and took in one last night-time vista. A short detour to pay the bill, a last look from the observation platform and they exited via the downward hurtling elevator.
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