I did not go home as planned, although I cannot explain why with any great certainty. Instead, I flew to California. The company has operations there, so it was not an unusual thing to do. I decided to spend some time arranging meetings to ensure that I understood the scope of our operations.
I found myself speaking to the type of people who wear suits each day. I tried to imagine them as workers. To convince myself that they knew how things were made, that they understood what it took to produce something, to achieve something. I was unsuccessful.
I am alone in a meeting room with this particular individual. He is supposed to know everything about the company, but he seems strangely reluctant to share this knowledge. “Tell me, what are our interests in the defence industry?”
He does not appear to have a personality. I was, presumably, responsible for employing him at some point, but I can no longer recall what my thinking was. He gives me a vague answer. “It depends on how the term is defined.”
I had forgotten how irritating some mortals could be. My family is at least direct, even when lying. “Perhaps you might venture to define it for me.”
He sits back in his chair. “Well, if we sell trucks to the army, is that being involved in the defence industry? What if we fit armour to the trucks? What if we develop military radios for the trucks? Counter-measures? Defensive armament?”
Can I fire people? I’m not sure. And by fire, I think I mean kill. I try again. “Those would all be involvement in the defence industry, to varying degrees. Which of those are we currently doing?”
He looks uncomfortable. “You said you were interested in moving away from that sector.”
It is not an answer. Perhaps my attention has been elsewhere for too long. I decide not to press the point. I can find the information by other means. I try something different. Perhaps I can divine the source of my current anxiety.
“How are things generally?”
He doesn’t seem to understand the question. “Everything is fine. I’m not sure what you mean.”
I am unsure if he is incompetent or is just being evasive. I think the former. “Risks. Issues around security? Cyber attacks? The safety of our employees here and abroad? The risks presented by political instability in other countries? Is there anything we are dealing with?”
He shakes his head and shrugs simultaneously. “No, everything is under control.”
I am both comforted and frustrated. I have one last question. “Tell me about Greenstaal Industries. Who are they?”
He now seems happier to talk. “They are a significant presence in some of our markets. They are not usually a direct competitor. They have a very broad range of interests. Mainly defence, but also medicine, communication, remote sensing, drones, transport management systems, some civil engineering projects, lots of things. Why?”
“Why aren’t they a competitor?”
He waves the question away with his hand. “They are heavily into automation, machine learning, autonomous systems, that kind of thing. We have never had the same emphasis.”
“I met one of their people, Adam Deerman. What do you know about him?”
He seems surprised as if he does not think I would not be party to knowledge of such people. “Adam? He’s their head of development. He’s a nice guy and knows his stuff. What do you want to know?”
I am not sure how much to share with him. “He wants to work with us. I want to know if that’s a good idea.”
Suddenly he is interested. “You want to get back into defence? Because they have some nice stuff. They have some airborne munitions which can—”
I hold up a hand to stop him. “No, I don’t want that. I’m more interested in some of their civilian projects. Can you find out exactly what their medical division does?”
He nods. “Of course.”
I have been thinking more about what Adam said. Perhaps they can do something for me. When it comes to the pain in my leg, it is possible I have been looking in the wrong place for a solution for all these years. Why shouldn’t the mortals have an answer with their medicine? Magic is all very well, but it has its limits. The mortals understand that everything, ultimately, can be understood. Once that is achieved, any issue simply becomes an engineering problem. If they could understand what was wrong with my leg, if they could divine the source of my pain, then they could perhaps treat it. While the mortals are limited in some ways, those limitations force them to think deeply about problems, and their solutions can often be ingenious. My family does not have the same motivation, particularly when it comes to anything which affects me.
I do not understand why my leg is so painful again lately. I have never been entirely free of pain, but there were times when I dared to think that things had improved, that one day it would only be an irritation. Why is it now causing me such pain again?
I have to be careful if I am to ask the mortals for help. I cannot simply present myself to one of their doctors, lest my true nature becomes apparent to them. I can, of course, conceal my nature from them when the need arises. However, that is of little use to me in this situation. It would be self-defeating. How can they treat me when they cannot see me as I truly am?
There is a solution of sorts. When medical attention is required, we can use a private clinic that Apollo has an arrangement with. Not that others have any great need of such an arrangement. I am the only god who is afflicted with such issues. The others sometimes require preparations to help them sleep, but only I experience pain and imperfection. At that place, when the need arises, they are able to adapt the results of their investigations so that scans and results look human to mortal physicians. Sometimes they are also able to make any necessary adjustments to the mortal preparations so that they have the desired effect on us. These arrangements might be useful in this case. It is true that they have never managed to effect a permanent solution to my condition, and I have always ascribed that to their incompetence, although it could be that I have not been as cooperative as I might have been. Whatever the truth is, I have access to my scans and results over the years. Might these be helpful? Could Adam’s doctors and researchers produce a solution where our people have failed? Perhaps it is worth finding out.
I will take my time. First, I need to study exactly what Adam’s people do. “Have it for before the end of the day tomorrow.”
He is unperturbed by my request. It is possible that he is competent after all.
“I also want to know every interest we have in the defence industry, from designing weapons to providing paint for vehicles. Is that understood?”
This seems to make him more uncomfortable, but he assents. He has little choice. I may be ugly and flawed compared to the others in my family, but here I am in charge. I am the boss. Perhaps I have forgotten that. If that is the case, I must make sure that others do not make the same mistake.
When the time is right, I will seek out these doctors, and I will attempt to resolve my issue. Of course, if I am successful, I will be able to return to my family without pain. I will still look the same way, of course. I know there are limits. I will still be who I am. But if I had a clear head, if I was no longer troubled by pain…what could I achieve then?
It is certainly interesting to speculate.