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The Eyes of the Heart - Sample Chapters 1 & 2

The Eyes of the Heart

By Richard A. Hackett Jr.

Copyright © 2012 by Richard A Hackett Jr.


To Pete for planting the seed for this story, for helping me to see this powerful and unseen world around us, and for his eternal friendship.

To John for his hours of editing and insight and his unconditional friendship.

To my wife who has encouraged me to write and to follow my dreams and to my children that I hope will learn from life’s truths that are hidden in plain sight all around us.


He took a deep breath and smiled as he turned in a slow circle, taking in the beauty that surrounded him. It had taken thousands of years for the small river to carve this massive gorge out of the mountain and the end result was spectacular. The river gradually grew in size and speed as it gathered more of the melting snow that had started as a trickle at the head of the gorge from the higher elevations and carried it to its final destination in the valley beyond. He could not help but admire the beautiful groves of quaking aspen, sage and wild flowers that were growing everywhere. It had been an incredible fishing trip; one that he knew was now almost over. He was somewhat melancholy that this incredible journey was coming to an end.

As the bright sun reflected off the water of the small river, it reminded him again of his reason for being there and with careful steps; he began his methodical final trek down the river. Carrying his fly rod, small tackle box, and large stringer of fish at his side, he followed the dirt trail that paralleled the river as it wandered through the valley. As he had done the entire trip, he stopped briefly to survey each deep pool, protected boulder, fallen log, or undercut bank that he came to, and then he carefully selected the best location to cast from. With each cast or flip of his wrist, the line would float across the distance, placing the fly perfectly on the water, allowing the river to carry it across to the desired location. The result of each cast was different, sometimes the native brook trout would rise to the fly and at the last moment turn away, others would gently break the surface and carefully nip at it, and some would attack the fly with such ferociousness that it would take his breath away. Inevitably, those that took the fly would begin their unique dance at the end of the line. He would play the line out, letting the fish run, and then when he felt the time was right, he would carefully begin to reel it in. He loved catching fish.

From the moment the fish grabbed the fly, he knew how well he had hooked it and whether he would be able to land it or not. But in spite of that foresight, he would still strive with all of his heart and with all of his skill. Those that managed to break the line or shake the hook free would turn and swim downstream. He would smile sadly as he reeled in his line, knowing that all he could do was would hope for another chance at them, even though it would be far more difficult the next time. Those that he did reel in he would hold and admire, as if memorizing each part of them, before letting them return to the river.

He heard the sound of the splash upriver, just past the bend where he had previously cast. He knew the sound and what it meant. It was the same sound he had heard each time he left his prior fishing hole victoriously, but this time the sound was much closer. Knowing what was coming, he waited as the river eventually carried the dead trout toward him. As the torn body of the fish floated by, he reached in with a heavy heart and pulled it out of the river to add to his growing stringer of dead fish. The wolves were closing in.

Not only were the wolves upstream getting more aggressive, he could tell by their howling and increased activity that they also were gathering in mass downstream. It was becoming clear that the closer he got to the exit of the gorge, the more aggressive and numerous they were getting. Initially, they were small packs that preyed mainly on the fish he had caught. But as he got closer to the exit the fishing had become more difficult. Instead of crystal clear water, the wolves had muddied it with their continual traversing back and forth across the river. Where the fish earlier in his journey were much easier to catch, they had become far more skittish and difficult to attract to his flies. He knew it would not only be very difficult to catch anything from that point forward, but also very dangerous.

As he picked up his fly rod he could sense the pack circling the area, remaining just out of sight. He knew there were far too many of them to just ignore and that the time had come for him to do something drastic if he wanted to keep the path clear. He looked down at the stringer of torn and lifeless fish on his belt and then at the river as it disappeared around the bend, it's time he thought and then sighed.

He walked a little further and stopped in a small clearing next to the river. He stood next to a massive boulder that had long ago rolled down from the walls of the gorge and had come to rest near the river. He reached down and unhooked the stringer from his belt and laid it on the boulder above him. Then he sat down next to it and closed his eyes. The sun felt good on his face and the gentle breeze carried the smell of the fish that were now warming on the rocks down the gorge towards the wolves. He knew the smell and opportunity would eventually be too great for them to ignore. It was only a short time later, with his eyes still closed as he leaned against the boulder, that he heard them cautiously approaching the clearing. He initially followed their approach from the faint sounds of twigs breaking, but the sound of their breathing and the uncontrollable lapping of their tongues not only made it easier to place them, but it revealed how close that were getting. He waited. They were being very cautious those last few steps, fearing a trap, but he knew that the sight of him so vulnerable with his fish close by would be too much for them. It was not until the breeze carried the overwhelming smell of their dank, musty, almost putrid breath to his nose that he finally opened his eyes in time to see them lunging toward him. With their ears laid back, a wild rage in their eyes, and their fangs exposed, they lunged for his throat.

With a scream, Luke threw his arms out in front of his face as he jerked upright in his bed.

Chapter 1

The green glow from the digital clock cast just enough light for him to see the ceiling that he had been staring at for hours as he lay in his bed. No matter how hard he tried, he could not find a way to fall back asleep after being awakened by that nightmare of a dream. What an idiot, he thought as he remembered the stupidity and horror of letting the wolves just walk up and attack him. He wrestled with the whole dream the rest of the night and could almost remember the exact display of numbers for each of the endless times that he checked the clock from about 2:37 AM until now at 5:29 AM. He knew that at any moment the radio would click on, letting him know that it was 5:30 on Monday morning and time to get up. He reached to shut the alarm off, thwarting the impending intrusion and noticed his hand was shaking. He paused and stared at it in the glow of the numbers and the day that was before him and knew exactly what had brought that nightmare on.

Luke, there’s nothing to worry about, he told himself, or more correctly, that’s what everyone had told him over and over again, yet the thought of a “business trip” to Baghdad, Iraq set his mind churning with visions and images of suicide bombings, kidnappings, beheadings and assassinations. Looking back on it, he was pretty confident that he would have never taken this job in the first place, had he known that he would be asked to fly to Iraq. He still did not fully understand why he was chosen to go on this trip. He barely knew the product that the company wanted him to field demonstrate to the military. He thought he had taken a job with a leading game development company, not a company that was developing military equipment that would require him to travel into a war zone. The fact that his immediate boss was traveling with him, someone who was not prone to take personal risks, made him feel somewhat better about the business trip.

As the alarm clicked on and the sounds of the morning news around Los Angeles began to fill the room, he reminded himself how much he needed this job. When he looked beyond his misgivings about this trip, the truth of the matter was that the job was a great opportunity. He had nearly quieted his thoughts and the feelings that kept him awake for most of the night when his attention focused on the words that the newscaster reported in the background. “…Another roadside bomb attack killed three American soldiers and wounded four more during a patrol just outside of Baghdad.” His stomach knotted as he listened to the news and thought of the terrible impact that this would have on the families of those soldiers. “In a related item, the headless body of the English contract worker who had been held captive for the past several weeks was found along the Tigris River this morning...” He had tried to push the ‘off’ button on the radio alarm before hearing the latest item in its entirety, but it was too late. The mental damage had been done.

In spite of all his worries, Luke allowed his mind to disengage and shift into autopilot and simply follow his daily routine, the same routine that he had followed the majority of his life. Shower, shave, teeth, hair, dress and breakfast. After finishing the first items on his daily checklist, he went to grab the morning paper to read while he ate breakfast. As he opened the front door of his apartment to retrieve his morning newspaper, he looked down to see a folded headline about Iraq. Leaving it where it lay, he closed the door and decided to toss out the “reading the newspaper” part of his morning routine. As he put his rinsed cereal bowl and coffee cup in the dishwasher, he glanced out the window to confirm that the cab he had scheduled last night was there waiting to take him to the airport. He was almost disappointed. With his bags already packed from the night before, he grabbed his jacket, suitcase and laptop and headed out the door.

As he neared apartment 310, he overheard raised voices of the newlywed couple beginning their daily barrage of angry verbal assaults at each other. They’re starting a little early today, Luke thought as he got closer to their door. Suddenly the door jerked opened and an angry-faced, blond woman stepped out in her bathrobe, apparently to grab the newspaper that was lying in front of her door. She was obviously just as surprised as Luke as she saw him passing in front of the door. In less than a second, her angry demeanor transitioned to a smiling and beautiful young woman. “Oh, hi Luke,” she said with a smile as she turned and stepped back into her apartment. He had returned the smile and a “good morning” and then shook his head once her door closed. It was a typical interaction with them. They were all smiles and bliss when they were in public together, the perfect California professional couple, but behind closed doors the truth could be heard playing out almost every morning and every night. Choosing the stairwell instead of the elevator, Luke headed down the steps. You need the exercise, he told himself as he completed the last flight of stairs, passed the security door and stepped outside into the warm air of a summer morning.

The first sound that greeted him was that of a police siren in the distance. The cab driver seemed rushed and agitated in spite of his well-practiced greeting and false smile as he loaded Luke’s luggage in the back trunk and jumped in the driver’s seat. The cabby stepped on the gas and proceeded to weave in and out of traffic in his private battle against the city streets. Luke reached down and found the seat belt and snapped it on, just in case, he thought. After quickly merging into freeway traffic, it didn’t take long for his driver to become even more agitated and begin yelling and cursing at other drivers, who were quick to return fire with a counterattack of honks and other well known hand gestures.

Whenever Luke sat in the back seat of a cab, he always seemed more aware of his surroundings. Without the distractions or concerns of having to drive and navigate a vehicle, he felt like he was just an observer of events unfolding around him instead of an active participant. As they drove the 20 miles to the airport in stop and go traffic, he witnessed the recent results of several freeway accidents sitting alongside the shoulder. An assortment of shattered glass, plastic tail lights, twisted metal and ambulances for as far as he could see. Looking down the side streets of the city, he saw police cars with lights flashing and someone handcuffed in the back seat of the closest car. One of hundreds of tragic stories and events in this big city that more than likely would never even make the evening news, yet Luke knew that each and every one of these events would have tragic impact and pain for someone’s friends, parents, or children.

They arrived at the terminal and Luke paid the driver who had unloaded the luggage a bit too quickly, undermining his plastered on smile. While checking in at the airport, Luke could feel the tension. Strict security measures and constant warnings over the intercom made people edgy. Frustrations from those rushing to meet connecting flights, long lines with understaffed check-in counters, and a mother yelling at her kid who was throwing a fit on the airport floor, while the disconnected father remained distant to the whole situation created a thick fog of anxiety for Luke.

“Who am I kidding? I live in a war zone,” Luke mumbled to himself.

As he approached his gate, he could see his boss pacing back and forth and glancing at his watch. “Apollo” was not his real name, it was Stanley Walpole, but everyone knew better than to use it, instead they would use the mythical nickname he seemed to prefer. No one knew where he got the nickname, but it was strictly enforced. He was the lead developer and the self-professed “savior” of the company since coming on board seven years ago. At least that was the scuttlebutt around the office. Even the CEO of the company called him Apollo. Not quite the “geeky” type that you would normally expect from a programmer that devoted nearly every waking hour to writing code, at least not from his outer appearance. He was short in stature, slightly heavy, and his blond hair was never out of place. He wore only the best in designer clothing and drove the nicest car in the employee lot. In spite of the impressive outward appearance, Luke felt Apollo matched the stereotype of a programmer on the inside; distant, non-relational, methodical, calculating, and unemotional. Ugh. I’m being a little overly judgmental about him again, he thought, as he walked toward him with a smile.

“Luke, you’re late!” Was the greeting Apollo used without offering a good morning, or returning the smile. In reflex, he glanced at his watch and realized that in spite of leaving early, that he was indeed 4 minutes later than the 7:15 time they had agreed upon last night. He thought about tossing out the usual “bad traffic” or “security check-in” excuses, but then realized that it would do no good. And besides, Apollo had made it on time so he had no reasonable excuse. Then again, he’d probably been here for an hour already just to relish in this moment.

“Sorry about that. How was your morning?” he returned instead.

“Uh… Fine,” Apollo responded, with almost an off-balance edge to his voice as if he was prepared and expecting to deliver a far different response. Not missing a beat though, Apollo jumped right back into business mode, “A lot is riding on this field presentation, are you ready?”

“Yep, I’m just not sure why we need to spend 28 hours in airports and on planes to go to Iraq to demonstrate it to the military bigwigs there. Why not Camp Pendleton for a test area, or some other facility located on the mainland?” he joked sarcastically, emphasizing the last word.

“They want to see it in a real environment. Apparently, they would like us to test it on a few prisoners for them,” Apollo responded without looking at him, apparently not realizing Luke was just being sarcastic and already knew the answer. Or maybe he did, but chose to ignore it.

Luke could not help but remember the images of the highly publicized prison abuse scandals that had plagued the military early in the war and he couldn’t stop from glancing at his trembling hands again. “What, do they want us to determine if they are happy to be prisoners or not?” he joked. He understood how their “product” could benefit them in that environment, but he just couldn’t help being flippant as a result of his stress.

“You were hired as the Psych analyst expert, you tell me.” Luke just nodded, knowing that Apollo did not want for him to answer that question.

From Los Angeles to London they went over the presentation process for the tenth time in the last three days. Apollo made it clear that he would do all the talking except when it came to explaining the color data spectrums generated by the software and the generic hardware view. Looking at their tickets, he was initially relieved to find that he had the good fortune to not be seated next to Apollo on the evening flight from London to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but then he realized that the reason was that there was only one first class seat available and Apollo graciously took it. Oh well, maybe I can finally get a little sleep somewhere along the way, he thought.

After typing into his laptop the highlights of the earlier 7 hours of personal lecture notes he received from Apollo, he saw the soft yellow card hidden in his notebook case. It was a card from Danielle. Danielle was always so thoughtful and encouraging, and beautiful. Until now, he had totally forgotten that she gave the card to him at the end of the day on Friday before leaving the office. She presented it to him with a “Don’t open it until you’re on the plane” request and a kiss on the cheek. Feeling a little guilty about forgetting, he tried to find a good response if she were to ask him if he had followed her request. An eyebrow went up and a smirk etched onto his face as he thought, well she didn’t say which plane to open it on, so he felt he could tell her that he did indeed open it on the plane.

“From your wife?” a voice with an English accent asked. It came from the passenger sitting next to him in the window seat who had asked it over the humming of the planes engines. He was a rather big man who had his eyes closed as if sleeping when Luke first got on the plane in London.

“No. I’m not married,” he replied and tried to return to reading the outside of the envelope as he prepared to open it.

“Girlfriend?” The large man interrupted him again with the question and this time followed it with a smile and a wink that made Luke feel uncomfortable. “Yeah.” Luke replied and then angled away from the man as he proceeded to open the envelope and remove the glossy card inside, but again he hesitated and drifted off in thought. Girlfriend, is that how he would describe their relationship? Two weeks ago he would have said yes in a heartbeat if asked that question, but now, he was not so sure. A little “strained” would be the way he would describe their relationship the past few weeks. In all the prepping for the trip and the stress involved with the location of the field test, Luke felt there had been way too many discussions about life and purpose and personal character for his comfort. What used to be fun and crazy nights on the town with Danielle that included dinner, wine, more wine, dancing, more wine and then back to his place for the night, had grown less physical, involving less drinking and way more self-control on her part than he preferred. He had been racking his brain as to what he might have said or done that would have caused her to pull back, but nothing came to mind. He didn’t think he had changed, but there was something definitely going on with their relationship and he felt getting away might be a good thing, although he would have preferred someplace other than Iraq.

As he pulled the card out of the envelope, he saw a scene with a scorching desert and a camel looking, well, like a camel. No words, just the picture. As he opened the card, again no pre-typed words, just a hand written note to him from her.


They say a camel can go a long time without water, but I’m not sure how long I can last without seeing you. It has been great growing closer to you these last nine months and I will be missing our late night coffees and ice cream runs until you return.

Please be safe and know that you will be in my prayers.

Love Danielle

He wanted to feel encouraged and grateful, but his face gave his thoughts away as he sat in the seat holding the card with a furrowed brow.

In my prayers. That was an expression that he had never heard her use before. The more he thought about it, the more he was not sure how to take it. Did she think that something bad was going to happen to him while he was in Iraq? Something so terrible that she felt he needed some sort of divine intervention to save him? From what he had learned about her in their conversations, she was not religious as a kid. In fact, not even close: as she could party and curse with the best of his friends. In my prayers…

He tried to search his heart to understand why the statement bothered him so much. He didn’t have anything against someone saying that they would pray for him, it just didn’t seem right coming from Danielle. Maybe if some priest or pastor or even his mom had written it, it would be different, but coming from Danielle, well, it had the same “you're kidding, right?” feeling that he had when his buddy in college would wake up every Sunday morning after partying, cursing and chasing women all night to say he was “heading to Church”. It just seemed so hypocritical to Luke. Not that he was any better than his college buddy, but if being “on good terms with God” was a measure of good deeds versus bad deeds, then he felt he had as good a chance as most of the religious people he knew to get through the pearly gates, if not better.

Luke remembered going to church with his family when he was just a kid, but deep down he wasn’t even sure he still believed that there was a God. He somehow felt he wanted to, perhaps for selfish reasons, but the world was such a mess and it was often the “people of religion” who seemed to be behind a great deal of it. Cover-ups of pedophile priests and pastors, mega church leaders and TV evangelists professing their righteousness while sleeping with prostitutes, living in extreme wealth and comfort, all while duping and manipulating their destitute, desperate and good hearted members to send them their money. It all made him sick.

Then there are the radical fanatics within the Islamic believers like the Osama Bin Laden types. Organizing and directing horrendous acts of terror against innocent civilians (most of which were even directed at fellow Muslims), radical Shiites and Sunni’s killing each other in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan condemning and executing school teachers for teaching women to read, while at the same time growing and selling Heroin to pay for their regime and ideology. What a joke. Not that Christians fared any better in this measure of hypocrisy, with Catholics and Protestants spending decades killing each other in Ireland, David Koresh and Jim Jones type groups sacrificing their members, then there was the Crusades and Inquisitions of the Middle Ages, and the countless wars and acts of horror all in the name of religion. The leaders of Judaism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, and every other “isms” that he could think of all had their “skeletons in the closet” of history associated with them as well.

In all fairness, Luke conceded that the acts of extremists within those religions didn’t represent everyone within those groups. In fact many amazing works of art, science, technology and acts of kindness have come from religious people. Still, if those “leaders” and their actions were what the people were willing to follow, then as far as he was concerned, they all deserved each other. He didn’t want any part of it.

Luke had to take several deep breathes to clear his mind and calm down from the mental rant that was running through his mind, the same one that seemed to come every time he tried to discuss the topic of religion. At least he didn’t start chewing on the whole “politics” side of the forbidden topics as well. He closed his eyes and took another deep breath and smiled at the thought that the technique of ‘breathing’ probably originated with some religion, but he didn’t let it stop him. After several more minutes, the angst he felt slowly began to clear away and he began to drift off into sleep. He had nearly nodded off when her words, in my prayers, crept back into his mind and started the whole thinking process all over again. It wasn’t until several hours later that he finally dozed off with that phrase still fluttering around in the recesses of his mind like a bird that can’t see, trying to find a branch to perch on.

A sudden, bright light brought him out of the sleep he had fought so earnestly for but it was a peace-less sleep that left him as tired as when he had drifted off. As his eyes adjusted, he saw that the English gentleman sitting next to him had lifted the window shade. It just so happened that the sun was positioned on the left side of the plane and the angle of the plane as it turned to change direction had placed Luke's face in the direct light of the sun through the window. He hated being in the center seat on plane flights as he was at the mercy of the people on both sides. As the plane leveled out and his eyes adjusted to the light, he glanced past the shoulder of the man that had raised the window shade and saw the yellows and browns of the desert colors below him. Were they close, he wondered? The stewardess confirmed the silent question with the traditional and this time multi-language rendition of the “seat backs and tray tables must be returned to their full, upright positions” routine that they went through just before landing.

As he stepped off the plane onto the enclosed gangway that lead them into the terminal, he felt the desert heat forcing its way through the openings. He was suddenly thirsty and was relieved as he finally entered the air-conditioned terminal. Being first off, Apollo was waiting impatiently for him with an expression on his face that was saying that his delayed exit from the plane was somehow Luke’s fault. Luke was getting really tired of dealing with Apollo’s attitudes, but he knew that voicing those feelings would not be a good career move.

At the baggage claim terminal they were greeted by two men in civilian clothing who came up to them as if they knew them, both were Caucasian and had short hair, one brown haired and the other blond. The blond haired man was taller and slim, maybe late forties, while the brown haired man was a little shorter and stockier and Luke guessed him to be in his late twenties. They introduced themselves as Cliff Jackson and Steven Lampkins and flashed some badge that as far as Luke was concerned, could have been a membership card to the Mickey Mouse Club, but it was official looking enough and they augmented the flashy badge routine with some impressive title that Luke couldn’t remember more than a few seconds after it was stated.

“Mr. Walpole and Mr. Baker, your three bags and two boxes of equipment have already been removed from the conveyor and are on their way to the awaiting aircraft. We have already cleared you through customs as well.” Cliff said to them as they shook hands. Luke smiled at the thought of these men not using the nickname “Apollo” when speaking to them. How did they know we had five items? he wondered. Heck, he didn’t even know how many bags Apollo had brought with him. The statement did make him feel a little better about the chances that their escorts were indeed who they said they were, but who really knew in these times. The fact that they and their bags had been cleared through customs was either pretty impressive or very concerning. They asked Luke and Apollo to follow them to a waiting car, to which both he and Apollo, without any show of great concern, simply nodded and walked after them. Lambs to the slaughter, Luke thought, as they walked with the two men.

As they stepped outside the terminal, the heat of the day slammed into him as if he had walked into an invisible wall. A few short strides later and they stepped into a waiting sedan that had the air conditioning fans blowing on high, giving him a momentary respite from the heat. Except for a few courteous statements, there were few verbal exchanges and the sedan quickly delivered them to another nearby terminal less than ten minutes away. As they drove, Luke watched from the coolness of the sedan and thought that the large number of turbans and veils were the only things that gave away the fact that he was in Saudi Arabia and not Los Angeles. Well, there was the heat to deal with, but not from inside the vehicle. As they passed through several security checkpoints, each with high fences and walls, he felt a little more reassured and secure. The sight of American troops on the tarmac preparing their gear and loading onto awaiting planes that had American insignia on them helped to soothe his fears a great deal.

There were more introductions with other soldiers as they exited the sedan and walked toward a building next to the tarmac. Once inside, a sergeant Patterson escorted them toward a waiting room where he strongly suggested that they take a moment to use the restroom one more time before they boarded the transport. Both Apollo and Luke took advantage of the offer. At the same time, Cliff and Steve momentarily excused themselves and came back in military fatigues and sporting side arms.

“Things will be a lot more military in appearance now that we will be leaving Saudi Arabia,” Cliff said to them in response to their expressions and glances at the firearms on their sides.

“They don’t like their people seeing American troops walking about,” Steve added.

“They feel it will also be a little harder for the bad guys to target us as well if we try to look like average citizens.” Cliff ended the statement with a smile. Luke could not help but smile as well as he looked at Cliff’s blonde hair and blue eyes.

“Yeah, I could hardly tell you apart from the locals,” Steve chuckled at Luke’s response and Cliff also smiled. Humor always helped to relax him in stressful times.

Luke sat in a folding chair and for the most part, looked out the window and watched the people coming and going. Everyone seemed relaxed, which in turn, helped him to relax. Apollo on the other hand seemed extremely nervous and continued to pace back and forth in the waiting room. Slowly he would walk to one side of the small room, look out the window, then turn and walk to the other side and do the same. Each time he completed the cycle, he would check his watch and look out the window and into the sky as if checking to see if the weather had changed. Rain Man, that should be his nickname, Luke thought to himself as he watched Apollo repeat the same actions over and over. I’m an excellent programmer, he imagined Apollo would say at the end of each turn. After watching about 30 cycles, Luke just closed his eyes and tried to think about something other than being here. Danielle entered his mind quick enough and he smiled. It was not long before the words she wrote in the card In my prayers popped back into his mind. His face formed a frown and he tried to grasp her reasoning for using those words again. He did not want to slip back into that circle of thought, so he opened his eyes and decided to watch Apollo the “Rain Man” pace back and forth as he wondered what horrors awaited them in Baghdad.

Chapter 2

Three hours later they were finally boarding the military transport. Luke had watched them load what seemed like an endless number of huge, plastic wrapped pallets into the back of the airplane. The sun was well into its afternoon arch as they headed toward the transport and stepping into the heat reflecting off the asphalt of the runway was like stepping into an oven.

They climbed a set of stairs and entered a side door of the transport, on the opposite end from where the pallets had been loaded. The seats were hard and faced sideways instead of forward. Luke was very happy that he was sitting next to one of the few windows available with Cliff sitting next to him. It was loud and there was no air circulating other than the hot air blowing in from the open back loading door. He looked down at the 3 bottles of water that he still held and was grateful he did not decline them when Cliff was handing them out in the waiting room. In spite of Cliff’s brief training course on the importance of drinking a lot of water, Apollo decided adamantly that he only needed one as they were leaving the air conditioned waiting room and as usual, he essentially “dismissed” Cliff when he refused the other 2 bottles that Cliff encouraged him to take. As the last of the soldier passengers boarded, Luke noticed that Apollo had already consumed over half of his bottle.

The rear loading ramp was raised by heavy hydraulic arms. It closed with a thud and the still air and the heat were stifling. “It’ll cool off a bit once we get airborne.” Cliff almost yelled over the noise of the engines as he watched Luke wipe the sweat running down his face. “Your body will adjust after a few weeks.” A few weeks! Luke smiled at the thought; I’m only planning of being here a few days at most.

The transport, as if feeling the same lethargy caused by the heat that Luke felt, seemed to take its time as it lumbered toward its planned starting point on the runway. It turned and paused, as if to catch its breath, hesitant to make the final sprint down the runway. Finally, with a deafening roar, it lurched forward, the engine whine increasing in pitch as the plane labored to pick up speed. Luke thought about all the huge pallets of materials loaded in the back of the transport and wondered if they had miscalculated the gross weight and overloaded the plane? Or worse, how many of those crates could “detonate” if they were bounced around too much. The whole transport vibrated and rattled, its very frame straining like the rope in an epic tug of war battle between the enormous load and the power of the huge engines. Luke was positive they were running out of runway and would crash in a ball of fire. He imagined it would be the lead story in a folded paper on his own doorstep the following morning. Then he felt the nose of the plane suddenly angle up and he could see the ground begin to drop away, taking his stomach with it. The vibrations settled down and the hum of the tires on the runway faded leaving only the roar of the engines. Luke swiveled his jaw to pop his ears and breathed a little easier. He was relieved to feel the temperature inside the cabin gradually drop as they gained altitude. Although it was still hot, at what he guessed to be 90 degrees, it was much better than the 115 degrees they had left below.

Twenty minutes later he was handing one of his water bottles to Apollo. Apollo had nervously downed the last of his bottle within minutes of getting airborne. In all fairness, Luke realized that he personally had also finished the majority of his first bottle, but he knew he had two more bottles for the remainder of the trip. Just like two kids, Luke knew Apollo wanted his other bottle but he was determined to hang onto it. At first, Luke pretended not to notice Apollo “eyeballing” his water and simply sat back and closed his eyes as if resting. Apollo countered by yelling small talk across the seats toward Cliff about how hot it was and how thirsty you could get in such a short time. Luke was pretty sure that Cliff also got Apollo’s hint about needing more water, but he just answered “yep” and smiled.

After awhile, Luke started to feel pity for Apollo and ignored his earlier arrogance and pride. He yelled across the engine noise “Here you go!” and tossed one of his remaining bottles to Apollo. It did not surprise Luke that there was no “thanks” or nod, or even a smile for the kind gesture. Apollo just opened the bottle and drank the top third of it without a word. Maybe that alone was worth giving up his water, but it still irked him to no end.

“He’ll have to pry my last one out of my dead hands.” Luke mumbled lowly to himself as he glanced out the window, but apparently it was loud enough for Cliff to hear. Cliff chuckled in response, “He’s not getting mine either.”

After about an hour, Luke felt the vibrations and heard the sound of the engines change. He looked out the window again and Cliff half yelled “Iraq” and then nodded as Luke stared at the land of Iraq below. The city that he had seen off in the distance from an earlier glance was now right below them.

“It looks so peaceful from up here,” he said, but Cliff barely smiled in response. Almost on cue, the plane suddenly banked and went into a sharp dive toward the ground. Luke could not help but look toward Cliff with questioning and concerned eyes. Seemingly unaffected by the events unfolding around them, Cliff casually leaned toward Luke and spoke to him in a low voice.

“Not to worry too much, the pilots do it to reduce the threat of any air to air missiles; the shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles that the terrorists can use.” Luke exhaled at the explanation and realization that they were not about to crash, as he first feared. Looking across the aisle, Apollo had what must have been the same look of terror written all over his face as he tried to grasp what was happening. Knowledge is power, came to Luke’s mind as he met Apollo’s eyes, so he just gave Apollo a smile and pretended that the sudden dive didn’t bother him at all.

At the very last minute, and just before the breaking point of his own façade of calmness, the transport leveled off above the ground and landed onto a runway that appeared out of nowhere. Once the plane had touched down, the engines reversed and the brakes engaged slowing it down before it angled off the runway and taxied over to the hangar. Once again, the heat filled the cabin as the transport came to a stop and the engines were turned off. For several minutes, a ghostlike humming roar from the engines continued in Luke’s ears. It reminded him of the humming sound he heard after the last rock concert he attended, except worse.

“Welcome to Baghdad!” Cliff said to them as they unbuckled from their seats. Luke gathered his empty water bottles and the two Apollo left on his seat and put them in the same bag that Cliff had placed his empties. As he stepped off the transport, in the waning daylight, he looked around at the airport. Unlike Saudi Arabia, there was a very strong American military presence in every direction. They had barely reached the hangar when he saw that men were already unloading the transport and four soldiers were carrying their bags and equipment, right behind them.

They entered the terminal where a Captain Stevens and two lieutenants (he missed their names) greeted them and offered them each a bottle of cool water. They gave the same “drink lots of water” speech that Cliff had given them in Saudi Arabia. This time Apollo took two bottles, one for each hand. He quickly opened one of them and began drinking from it. The new members to the group escorted them to several waiting vehicles that had been mentioned in the introduction. As he walked through the terminal, Luke could not get over how out of place and vulnerable he felt. Men around him were in flak jackets and helmets and all he had was a light cotton shirt and a pair of slacks, both of which were sticking to him. As they exited the terminal, there were two military Humvees waiting for them.

They split into two groups, Cliff, the Captain, one lieutenant and Luke in one and the other consisted of Steve, Apollo and the other lieutenant. As they slid into the back of the hot vehicles, Luke noticed that there was a driver and a soldier in the front seat. Their vehicle had a rather intense fracture in the front windshield. The fracture showed how thick the bulletproof glass was that surrounded them. Although he felt better about it, he also remembered the scenes on TV of the twisted and burning remains of similar vehicles that had driven too close to an Improvised Exploding Device or had been hit by a rocket propelled grenade. He pointed to the window?

"IED or RPG?" He asked the soldier, using a few military acronyms in a sentence. The soldier just shook his head.
"We'd be dead from those," he replied and then smiled. Even with the smile, the thought did not ease Luke's mind.

The two truck convoy wound its way through the streets of Baghdad at high speed. The drivers raced down the roads, completely ignoring any apparent speed zones. Iraqi civilians were out in the streets as they drove by. Some were shopping, some drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and most appeared to not care about the Americans driving past in their vehicles. Others, however, stopped what they were doing and just watched the Humvees pass by with cold stares. Those were the people that made Luke nervous.

After thirty minutes, they arrived at a military checkpoint outfitted with sandbags, machine guns, and barbed wire protecting both sides of the gate. The defenses and barbed wire wound gradually out of sight in both directions. After they came to a stop and exchanged documents and salutes, the gate was opened and they drove into a walled complex filled with nicer buildings that were in contrast to those outside the complex. Somehow, Luke felt safe again.

“This was one of Sadaam’s favorite residences prior to his removal,” Captain Stevens shouted over the engine noise. “We appreciated him taking the time to build these for us prior to our arrival.” He smiled to Luke as they pulled up to a half circle drive landscaped with potted plants and a small fountain. As they stepped out of the Humvees and stretched, Luke went to gather his bags that were being unloaded.

Captain Stevens shook his head as he saw Luke reaching for the bags.

“We’ll take care of the bags and equipment. Your bags will be delivered to your rooms and your equipment to the briefing room for tonight. Lieutenant Simmons will show you to your rooms and acquaint you with the facilities. We will meet for chow at 1900 hours and then head over to the briefing room to take a quick look at what you have to show us.”

Luke knew that Apollo and another employee had already given the military officials in Washington an overview of the product. The past three months had been dedicated to building an “easy to transport” field demo unit as well as hiring and training Luke on the unit’s operation and using his area of expertise to interpret the readings and create a training module for it. He shook his head thinking back to the interview. When they said “potential travel”, it seemed exciting and attractive. He just wished he had asked then, where they intended to have him travel to.

The brick and cement of the structure kept the air inside much cooler than the outside temperature. The rooms were attractive in design, but held only the basic amenities. Cliff explained that the place had been looted by the people of Iraq prior to the military’s arrival and occupancy of the building. After several minutes of walking around and inspecting various details and views from the windows of his room, he put his clothes away and changed for the meeting. Once changed, he decided to visit the briefing room to set up the equipment, but when he arrived he found Apollo already there with most of the gear in place.

“Where have you been?” he said as Luke entered the room. “I want to run a full system test and do a dress rehearsal before dinner.” They spent the next hour preparing and positioning the presentation charts, handouts, equipment and screens for maximum visibility and impact. Apollo repeated himself over and over detailing how he wanted the meeting to flow. Luke got it the first time and, although he was not in full agreement with Apollo's approach, he took the easy road and nodded each time. Based on the number of seats, there would be less than twelve people attending this demonstration, which seemed less intimidating than a large crowd. They each took one last look before they headed to the mess hall.

They filed into a “great room” near the kitchen with military-issue tables and chairs placed around the room to accommodate the maximum number of people at each meal. The chow line was pretty self-explanatory so they grabbed a steel tray and utensils and shuffled down the line, stopping at each station where a young man or woman plopped something onto each plate. Luke smiled and thought it reminded him of a military “Club Med” minus the bikini’s, ocean, pool and large quantities of alcohol. Knowing the dangers and location, he was sure the troops stationed here felt that his comparison would be far from their minds.

He sat down at the end of an empty table and looked around the room at the soldiers who were filing in and out or sitting and eating. Many were laughing or talking loudly with other soldiers. In contrast, others were quiet and stoic. It seemed strange, but although some sat at a full table, they acted as if they were sitting by themselves. The other troops did not seem to feel the need to intrude on their space, but instead respected it. As he looked around at the soldiers, it hit him as to what made America so unique and special compared to other countries. There were people of just about every color and with every racial trait sitting, laughing, and serving together. “Our greatest challenges are our greatest strengths” he had read somewhere about America and the extreme racial diversity among its people. While the civilians seemed to find the negatives of such diversity, those in the military seemed to exemplify the positive of it. In spite of Apollo talking incessantly about work to fill the time, Luke felt somehow moved by the observation. He mentioned it to Apollo, interrupting him in mid sentence as he was going on and on about the handouts. Apollo seemed perturbed, but he took a moment to look around the room as if he needed to confirm or overrule Luke’s random observation. “Yeah” was his only reply before reengaging his mouth about the handouts.

Luke was surprised that the meal was not all that bad. After the terrible stories he had heard about military food in the movies and books, he had very low expectations. Then again, he remembered that he had not had a decent meal in nearly 24 hours. Even though, he still felt he would happily eat the same meal again if offered to him. “It’s just fuel” is the way he looked at most meals. He loved a good meal, but eating was never an obsession for him. For Danielle on the other hand, each meal seemed to be an exciting experience of flavors and textures. She was always the adventurous one when it came to trying new food, where he preferred the “sure thing” on the menu. Over the past few months that they had been dating, she had definitely expanded his eating and social horizons.

Apollo tapped his watch to let Luke know that the meal was over and they left the mess hall and headed to the meeting room a little early, only to find it already full. The room went silent as the two of them stood in the doorway waiting for direction or clarity on the next course of action they should take. Cliff seemed to read the uncertainty and let them know that they would call them in when they were ready for them. In the meantime, they were asked to take a seat down the hall in the lounge area. What was supposed to be a fifteen minute pre-meeting turned into almost an hour. During that wait, Luke could see that the jet lag and lack of sleep had started to take its toll on both Apollo and himself. No matter how much caffeinated soda he drank, he could not get his mind and body back on track and he became more and more inwardly focused and quiet. Apollo’s response was the opposite; he became more critical and short with Luke and would not shut up. About the time Luke had his fill of it and was ready to snap back, one of the lieutenants finally came out to escort them into the briefing room.

As they entered the room, Luke saw that there were eleven men and one woman sitting around the conference table. Although he recognized five of them, the rest he had never seen before or if he had, he could not remember their faces. With quick introductions flying around the room, Luke missed the majority of their names and instead tried to focus on their ranks. After the introductions were completed, a hand signal and nod was given from the major sitting at the end of the table toward Apollo. Without hesitation, Apollo launched into his canned product presentation with a vengeance as the others turned pages, trying to keep up.

He started with a PowerPoint presentation which gave a generic overview of what the product was designed to do. A simple, straightforward presentation that he felt almost anyone who was paying attention could follow. As Luke watched Apollo distribute the handouts, he remembered that most of the guys on the design committee proposed skipping the basics and going straight into the technical stuff to save time. They felt that since all those attending would have received the classified handouts of the product days before the presentation began, rehashing it would not be necessary. Luke disagreed and was able to change their minds by asking them a few questions.

“How many of you have thoroughly read the color spectrum handouts I gave you last week?” Knowing confidently that they hadn’t, they still all slowly raised their hands as if to let the managers in the room see that they were doing their jobs. “Anyone care to explain how reactionary reads can affect the color spectrums?” No one took the bait, so he drove home the point. “Just because you are given a handout does not mean you will read it. We are all busy with other things so we can’t assume that they will not be busy as well. We have to ensure they have a basic understanding of the product first, or we will lose them or intimidate them with all the ’techno jargon’ we use. It may all make perfect sense to you, but the end-user will have no clue as to how it works.” His appeal seemed to convince them to save the statistics and hardware explanations of the product until after they confirmed the audience had a good understanding of the purpose of the product and its benefit to them. Apollo’s words brought his mind back to the room.

“Our company has been a game developer in the US and international markets for the past six years. We recently began developing a new generation of game technology that would take the user from sitting in front of the TV and out into the real world. We plan to do this by adding a thin video display membrane to the outside of eye glasses which is then connected to a portable system module that can easily be carried on a person’s body. This would allow the end user to easily transform standard glasses into a video display platform that could go anywhere they do.”

“There’s a fifty car pile-up on a freeway waiting to happen,” one of the members interjected which brought a laugh from the others sitting around the table.

“People will be walking into poles and walls all over the place,” another person said as the laughing grew a little louder. But just as another individual started to join in on the fun, the major sitting at the end of the table held up a hand and everyone immediately calmed down.

“Let’s let him continue,” he said with a smile, while at the same time apparently appreciating their humor.

Apollo seemed a little flustered by the laughing and glanced at his notes as if trying to figure out how to get started again. Seeing the situation was heading down a precarious path, Luke decided to buy Apollo some time to gather his thoughts by interjecting himself.

“We understand there will be challenges in the civilian world, but in a more controlled and disciplined environment like the military, we don’t believe such concerns would be an issue.” That seemed to bring the group back into a more professional attitude and environment, where Apollo continued the presentation again.

“Yes, and such social concerns are still a long way from reality due to the current technology gap. My initial efforts to develop this membrane are still far short of a full video display. But in the initial development phase, I designed a software program that takes advantage of current on-shelf technology that will revolutionize how the military can wage urban warfare. We call it ‘Cat Eyes’ and this incredible advancement is what we are here to present to you today.” Apollo nodded toward Luke who opened the small carrying case that was in front of him. Luke removed the glasses and system module from the case and sat them on the table. Everyone seemed to have a different visual response to what they saw sitting in front of them. Apollo continued as Luke closed the case.

“As you can see, the production model is small, lightweight and unassuming to the casual observer. But to the wearer of the glasses, it is a visual guidance system and a personal database and classification system for determining the hostility potential and threat level of an enemy.” Apollo looked toward Luke. “My colleague is one of our lead designers and holds a master’s degree in psychology and has advanced software development skills. He will explain and demonstrate the functionality of the product.” Apollo then looked down at his notes as if he was preparing to follow along in case Luke lost his place. Luke smiled at everyone as he glanced up from his prepared presentation notes. ‘Lead designer’ that was the first time that title was used to describe him. He felt nervous as he glanced down at the canned presentation notes Apollo had created, but for some reason he made a decision to change things a little in hopes of personalizing the presentation to the audience.

“How many here have emotions?” Luke raised his own hand as if to show it was okay to participate and a few others did as well while the rest nodded. Apollo on the other hand immediately looked up at Luke knowing that he was not following the script. Luke kept his hand in the air as he continued. “Anger, hatred, fear, sadness, confusion, frustration, love, lust, like, happiness, joy, contentment,” he rattled off many types of emotions. “There are hundreds of emotions that we go through in a day that we cannot control on the inside.” He then lowered his hand as he continued. “Now on the outside we can often mask or hide those feelings right? And truthfully, some of us are better at hiding certain emotions than others. Children on the other hand have a difficult time concealing their emotions, but as we get older the majority of us learn to be quite good at keeping our inner feelings masked or hidden from the casual observer. But no matter how good we are at hiding them outwardly, inside, the feelings are still there.”

While speaking, Luke strived to make eye contact with everyone around the table, except Apollo, trying to read their reactions. In doing so, he felt his confidence returning and his nervousness easing.

“Our minds can produce all types of emotions as a result of sights, sounds, smells and many other triggers based on the thoughts it processes.” He held up a finger as if counting. “We have emotions that are triggered by processing memories of our past history. For example, you can be happily hanging out with your buddies one moment drinking a beer, but when a person that ‘did you wrong’ walks by, the memory produces an electro-bio-chemical reaction and our emotions can suddenly change dramatically. As that person disappears around the corner and out of sight, your neural activity and bio-chemistry settles and thus your emotions slowly return to where they were prior to the memory. Even our private recollection of our past history can directly trigger a current emotional response. Now a close friend or spouse might have a chance at sensing your changing emotions at the time, but the casual observer would more than likely see nothing change in your countenance.” Luke paused long enough to let the concept sink in and then added a second finger to his count.

“Now let’s say you’re sitting with the same group of buddies, and someone punches you in the arm from behind. As a natural form of self-defense, the emotion of ‘anger’ is initiated, sending a burst of adrenaline in to your system preparing the body to fight. However, as you turn to retaliate, you see it’s another buddy that has come to join you so, the emotion of ‘anger’ disappears almost immediately. You see, you think, you feel and then you react. We call these reactionary emotions.” He paused again.

“But the emotions we often fail to see or recognize in time, and the ones that are the most dangerous to society, are the emotions of ‘intent.’” He added a third finger to his count and then opened his hands. “The dangerous emotions of ‘intent’ can be a deadly combination of hatred, anger, sadness, determination, rage, revenge and many others that can have disastrous endings if the individual chooses to act on them. These emotions are tied to a reoccurring thought process that produces a continuous bio-chemical reaction in the thinker. Similar to a drug addict who keeps a chemical in their bloodstream, as the entrenched thought process continues to cycle, so too does the bio-chemical reaction. We see the final destination to cyclical emotions of intent every day around the world, in premeditated murder, stalking, rape, and even terrorist attacks and suicide bombers.” He let the last few words sink in before he continued. “Imagine if we could read, or better yet, see the emotions of people? Instantly being able to classify and evaluate possible threats before a single word is spoken or an action taken and to be able to act preemptively. What tactical advantages would that give to your soldiers in the field? How many lives could it save?” He smiled as he started his next topic and saw that the minds in all those sitting at the table were engaged and thinking as he continued.

“How many here have heard someone talk about their ‘aura’ before?” He paused a moment before continuing and saw nods and a few fingers in acknowledgment of his question. “I don’t know about you, but I usually think of some fruitcake sitting at a table wearing some sort of mystical headgear with crystals scattered around the room, trying to tell someone’s fortune, saying ‘your aura is very strong.’” Luke said with a B movie horror voice. “But in a more common setting, it can be just a passing statement of someone trying to describe someone’s personality to you, ‘she just has a great aura about her.’ Or maybe it’s the emotion that makes the hair on the back of our necks stand up when someone says ‘I have a really bad feeling about this guy.’ Whatever example comes to mind, the point is that it is scientifically measurable that our bodies generate a continual ‘energy field’ or ‘aura’ if you will, that under observation, is constantly changing and unique to each person. The question is; does that energy field or aura tie directly to our environment and the emotions we are experiencing?” Luke picked up the glasses and held them up as if he was going to put them on.

“Would you agree that having the ability to classify an ‘aura’ into an easily understandable tool that measured threat potential would be a huge breakthrough for science, for society, and more importantly, in your case, for the military?” He stopped and set the glasses back down onto the table knowing that Apollo would to continue the presentation from there. He could see by the facial expressions around the table that mental gears were still turning.

“The Cats Eyes glasses and receiver module accomplish just that.” Apollo came in right on cue, although his tone communicated that the presentation was changing from interactive discussion back to a lecture. “The electronic membrane used with the Cats Eyes product continually converts a person's unique but ever changing ‘energy field’ into colors. It would enable the user to immediately see and interpret those colors and the emotions they represent with just a glance, and then respond accordingly.”

Upon Apollo’s completion there was a long, uncomfortable pause, as eyes glanced toward the major. Luke got the impression that it was a leadership or respect issue, not necessarily a lack of interest. Luke felt pretty good about the presentation and assumed that Apollo did as well. Finally the major broke the silence and gave his synopsis back to Apollo.

“So by wearing your glasses, my soldiers would be able to easily distinguish the good guys from the bad guys that they may encounter? With one look they would know whether the person is for us or against us, thereby increasing their own survivability in the field?” the major stated more than asked and the rest of the group seemed poised to interject as well.

“Could this also be used to help process the hundreds of Iraqi’s we bring in daily for questioning, so that we can quickly determine who is a threat and should be held for further questioning and who is not?” a captain interjected before Apollo could answer the first question. Luke remembered from the introductions that was the captain responsible for a local internment camp.

“In the most generic sense… yes to both questions,” Apollo answered them. Luke knew he was going out on a limb with that answer and that there was a lot more to it than just putting on the glasses but he fought back the desire to comment.

“If they work, it would be a great way to help clear out the jails,” the captain responded.

The major leaned forward and looked at Luke, then the rest of the table and then finally at Apollo.

“I have listened to a lot of crazy ideas from a lot of different computer jockeys and salesman representing their companies through the years. I’ve got to say that this one definitely tops the list.” He took a breath and held it for a moment and Luke felt his heart sink. “But I’ve also been wrong in the past with a few of them.” He then looked away from Apollo and back to his team, almost as if to subliminally give them permission to speak freely.

“I agree, this reads more like a science fiction novel than reality,” one of the men said.

“So did night vision goggles when they were presented,” another man replied with a smile.

“It sounds like a whole lot of smoke and mirrors to me,” a sergeant interjected and frowned.
“I tend to agree. One bad read on someone and you and your men are dead, then no one would ever trust the glasses again,” the female lieutenant replied.

“Yeah, too many variables and the training curve could be high. Most of our soldiers have only a high school education,” another soldier tossed in.

“Those same high school boys and girls are trained to operate some pretty technical equipment being used in the field today.” The major seemed to be defending his field troops and the young soldier seemed a bit humbled by the correction.

“Good point, but I also agree that unless it’s pretty simple and fool proof, it will never be accepted by the men in the field,” a young officer replied.

A silence fell over the room, as the meeting seemed to be heading in a bad direction. Luke was surprised how quickly things went down a negative path and knew that he had to find a way to redirect the conversation before the momentum ended the meeting. Another thought for the use of the glasses had entered his mind on several occasions, but the obvious use seemed to always outweigh the one currently bouncing around in his mind. He thought he would toss it out to break the awkwardness of the silence.

“I believe it would also help to minimize the antagonistic view the Iraqi’s have toward your soldiers.” Luke’s psychology background suddenly took over his thinking process. All eyes were on him. “Would you care to elaborate on that son?” Once again, it was the major who broke the silence as he and the rest stared at Luke.

“Well, if your soldiers can quickly recognize a ‘threat’ from a ‘non-threat’, for example an Iraqi citizen that they encounter, their initial attitude will be less hostile toward a non-threat correct? Major, your soldiers are trained to assume and plan for the worst in each encounter and for good reason, but in doing so they initially treat all of the Iraqi’s as if they are a threat. Unfortunately, the citizens can sense and feel that antagonism and mistrust and they in turn assume the worst of the soldier. Perhaps if your soldiers could more quickly assess the threat level of the citizen and be less harsh in their initial interactions, the average Iraqi citizen would be more at ease and more willing to cooperate?” He took a moment to let it sink in, and then continued as he turned to the internment captain sitting across from him.

“For example, in an effort to learn the motives and/or guilt of someone, you may need to hold them against their will for long periods of time by locking them up, holding them in camps, and keeping them away from their families. As you can imagine, it would not take long for the imprisoned person to build a strong resentment toward the captor.” Luke continued to look at the captain in charge of the internment facility, before looking back toward the major. “Imagine if you could avoid generating such emotions, by speeding up that learning curve from weeks or months, to just minutes. If you could, you would stand a greater chance of winning their confidence. Or at least greatly reducing their animosity.” The major just stared at him and rolled the pencil he held between two fingers. Luke glanced toward Apollo who almost glared and gave him an ‘I wish you would keep your mouth shut’ look.

The major looked across the table at the captain sitting across from Luke.

“You seem in deep thought, John. Is this whole thing a waste of time or is there potential?” The major looked at him and waited for an answer. The captain looked up briefly from the handout in his hand and smiled.

“Actually, I’m looking forward to seeing it field tested. Anyone can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk,” he said to no one in particular. The major smiled and nodded his head.

“Well, it’s my understanding that we are scheduled to do just that on Thursday morning at 0700. Unless anyone feels it is a waste of time, I think these men have made a case for allowing the field test to go ahead as scheduled. We will see those of you there that are scheduled to observe the test. For those unable to attend, we have a briefing that will be held following Thursday’s field test. Any questions?” the major asked, but no one interjected.

Luke worked through the math to determine what day it was and realized that it was only Tuesday evening. Two days before he could wrap this up and get back home! As everyone was leaving, he nodded and smiled to those that made eye contact as they left. Once the room was clear, Apollo began to slowly put away their presentation equipment. Luke walked over and began helping.

“That went well,” he said in slight sarcasm. Apollo looked up at his words.

“You’ll have to do a flawless job to recover from this meeting,” Apollo said with his critical tone. Luke was unsure of the meaning of his words. Was he saying that he had screwed up or that the overall presentation went poorly? Apollo stopped and turned toward Luke.

“You need to learn to stick to the primary concepts and script of the product when speaking. Don’t waste their time and ours selling the soft potentials of the product. We are not here to win the 'confidence of the Iraqi people.' We are here to convince them that this will help defeat the insurgents which, in turn will help us to sell the product to the buyer, lots of product.” Luke fought back the urge to defend his views and the direction he had taken the meeting, and that he did not agree with Apollo, but he also understood that the “money thing” drove most of what businesses were about. He finished putting away the last of the equipment in silence and headed off to bed. He was exhausted.

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