Chapter 17


Tokoyo did not like wearing a suit. He did not like having to shave when he didn't feel like it or having to step outside when he wanted to smoke. He did not like interrupting his work to attend a social engagement, and above all he did not like situations in which he was expected to be charming.

That did not change the fact that he was very, very good at it, nor the fact that he looked quite good in a suit.

As much as he had not wanted to come to tonight's engagement and go through the motions of caring about it or the people involved, he was not going to pass up the opportunity it presented for him to put his status to good use. He had spent the first half hour holding a delicate glass in one hand and watching the room move around him. Over the years, he had learned that the best tactics in catching one's prey were careful observation, silence, and a great deal of patience.

Tonight, his focus was on James Maxwell. He knew Maxwell in passing only; they had exchanged trivialities on several occasions, and, as rich, influential men, they were often invited to the same functions. From direct experience, Tokoyo knew Mr. Maxwell to be clever, confident, and charismatic. This latter was the man's most dangerous asset, to Tokoyo's way of thinking, and the scientist did not let threats go unexamined. After their first few encounters, he had made it a point to learn more about his new acquaintance, and most everything else that he had learned about the man had been discovered through careful questioning through private channels. Most of what he had learned were mundane details about the man's family, history and paranoia. A few of the tales he had heard were very interesting however, and it was because of these that he was preparing to level as much charm and skill as he had at his disposal at the man.

He drained his glass, discarded it, and crossed the room to Maxwell. He timed his approach so that he came up just as an elderly couple was walking away and as a server with a tray of drinks was passing by. With a fluid motion, he took two glasses from the tray and offered one to Maxwell.

"Mr. Maxwell, it's nice to see you again." His smile was congenial and his tone relaxed. "Have a drink."

Maxwell hesitated, then set their game in motion by returning the smile and accepting the drink. "Dr. Kouhei. How is your work coming?"

"More slowly than I have the patience for," he admitted. "I think I'll start cheating if things don't improve soon."

Maxwell chuckled and took a drink. "I know how that feels."

Tokoyo didn't doubt that. "You've been busy, I assume?"

"Very." Maxwell didn't elaborate, but there was a hint of smugness around his eyes that intrigued the scientist.

"I've been hearing a great deal lately about your son's accomplishments. I'd like to extend an internship position to him, once he's finished his degree." Tokoyo watched Maxwell's face as he spoke.

The other man's smile was like plastic, but convincing. "He's a very intelligent young man, but I'm afraid he'll be turning his attention to other matters when he reaches adulthood."

"Such as?"

"Economics," Maxwell replied, taking a sip from his glass, "and business."

Tokoyo smiled. "Business" indeed. He knew more than enough about Maxwell's business--he supplied most of the politician's wares through subsidiary companies.

"What a shame for the scientific community, to lose a mind of that caliber." Tokoyo gave a good natured shrug. He noticed a server passing near them and took the opportunity to exchange his empty glass with a full one. As he tasted his new drink, he decided to broach a new subject. "What about his older brother? Are both of your sons as talented as their father?"

Maxwell's bemusement would not have seemed feigned if Tokoyo hadn't known the truth. "I have only one son, Dr. Kouhei."

"Well, only one that matters, I suppose," Tokoyo agreed, composing his expression and tone to emphasize his tact. "The elder was a bit of a disappointment, I hear. Joined the military police, changed his name. It's no wonder you don't want to admit to him."

Maxwell gave him a shrewd look; Tokoyo continued speaking so that he wouldn't have to deny or concede. "I only mention him because I heard an interesting story about him from a young man who recently came to work at my research institution. He had worked for the military police as an engineer developing new weapons, and he recalled a young man who had been helping to test one of them being injured and the wound miraculously disappearing. The young man, of course, told my employee that he had been unscathed in the first place, but my employee swears that he saw the young man's arm catch fire."

"This is all very interesting, but what does it have to do with my son?" Maxwell was on guard now, but Tokoyo felt the risk he was taking in being so direct was calculated. Still, there was no reason to further irritate the politician by pointing out that now he suddenly did have two sons.

"I was told that the young officer was named Julian Vaughn, but when I looked him up I was struck by his resemblance to you." Tokoyo widened his eyes just a little as though to convey his surprise. "And it wasn't just a passing resemblance, I assure you. Anyway, I remembered vaguelly from old news feed pictures that you had another son, aside from Phineas. I even looked up the old feeds to be sure."

Tokoyo had no doubt that Maxwell's attention was riveted on his words, and the man's silence when he paused seemed to indicate this. He took a moment to take a drink and appear nonchalant, but not a long enough moment to give the other man too much time to think.

"Needless to say, I was interested in investigating my employee's story. I'm sure you know plenty about what the media calls my unorthodox research into the psychokinetic power of the mind, and a story of a man capable of healing himself--well, it caught my interest, to say the least." He smiled, trying to put Maxwell at ease. The man did seem to relax, but Tokoyo had a feeling it was just part of the game.

"My son always was a miraculously healthy boy," the politician admitted with an indulgent smile for the eccentric facade Tokoyo had adopted. "But as you already guessed, we aren't on speaking terms. You'll have to contact him directly if you want to find out the veracity of your employee's claims. I wouldn't waste my time if I were you, though."

Tokoyo inclined his head in acknowledgement. "Can't blame me for taking every avenue open to me, though, can you?"

Maxwell's answer was a cultured, though perhaps forced laugh.

"Anyway, thank you for indulging me and suffering through my questioning. I'll leave you to enjoy the party."

He bowed a little and took his leave of the other man, heading for an exit so that he could have a cigarette. He had plans to make and the smell of smoke helped him think. One thing he knew for sure was that he would definitely be taking Mr. Maxwell's advice in regard to his son.