Only a few hours passed before Danny shot out of bed, finding Damon with a tray of food.
“It’s already ten in the morning,” Damon almost cried out. “Come on now, wake up. Look, I even brought you breakfast!”
On the tray were two protein bars, a multi-vitamin, and a glass of water. Damon set the tray down on the desk across the room. Sitting himself upright on the edge of the bed, Danny stretched, trying to wake up.
“Hurry and eat,” Damon said, already leaving. “I expect to see you in the sparring room in ten minutes.”
“No time for a shower?” Danny asked halfheartedly, holding back a yawn.
“Shower on your own time,” came Damon’s reply from out of sight, down the hall.
Danny inhaled his breakfast in only a couple minutes before stretching out once again and making his way to the top five floors to find the sparring room—realizing only then that he wasn’t sure where that room was. He spent the following ten minutes sprinting back and forth through the corridors around the testing room, opening one door after another, finding only storage rooms, a rest area, another armory—no sparring room.
Another ten minutes passed before Danny finally found Damon.
“Late,” Damon pointed out as Danny arrived.
“How was I supposed to know where this room was?”
“The same way you’ll need to know where any previously unknown location may be. Neither you nor I really know where you’ll be in a week; you would do well to assume wherever you may be will not include a map.”
Damon explained the day’s training: they would be practicing hand-to-hand combat, but what Danny concluded he really meant was that Damon was going to beat the crap out of him for a couple hours. Danny became very familiar with the padded floor in that time. It was after about the third trip to the ground that he realized Damon’s cane leaning against the wall.
“Do you even need that thing?” Danny asked, getting to his feet.
“Don’t worry about it,” Damon said before sending Danny back to the ground. “Think of my body like water. If I send a kick or a punch, it’s a river.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Danny asked, getting indignant as he stumbled back to his feet.
“Rivers are just directed currents,” Damon answered. “You don’t always have to dam a river. Sometimes you can redirect it. Try doing that to me, manipulating the direction of my attacks.”
Danny took a step back, shaking his head. “Look, I have no idea how to even begin to do that.”
“Do it anyway.”
Gathering what little stamina he had left, Danny prepared for Damon’s next assault. He watched Damon’s arm hook around, coming in for a punch; without thinking, Danny managed to curve that punch even more, causing it to miss. Overwhelmed by a small victory, Danny dropped his guard enough for Damon to sweep his feet out from underneath him, and catch him from behind with his other arm.
Danny landed flat on his back. Rolling over, still recoiling from the attack, Danny couldn’t speak.
“Danny,” Damon said, taking in a breath and sitting down next to his curled up student, “do you know why Asael named his company Teleios?”
“Please,” Danny grunted, “just beat me up again—please.”
“For as gifted a mind as you appeared to be on your school records,” Damon said, sounding a little disappointed, “you aren’t very eager to learn.”
“I love to learn,” Danny said, rolling over to face Damon, still unable to sit up. “There are just some things I like to learn more than others.”
“How about what you’re doing wrong, then?”
“I know what I’m doing wrong! I’m getting hit by one damn shot after another.”
“Do you know why?”
“Because fighting you is like fighting an octopus; just when I think I’ve got you, you come back with a few dozen extra hits.”
“You’re mistaking a symptom for the sickness,” Damon sighed, helping Danny to sit up and face him. “You’re so busy reeling over your circumstances instead of working with them.”
“It’s Teleios, Danny.”
“A history lesson it is, then.”
Damon looked over at the wall, where the Teleios logo was etched, a line of poetry written below: “In their hopes Columbia’s arm prevails.” He turned back to Danny.
“Asael considered himself an avid student of Christian scripture,” Damon said. “He even read the texts in Greek on occasion. And he encountered one word that fascinated him to no end: teleios. Comparing the word to English translations, he found that more often than not it was translated as something like ‘perfect.’ But that translation never seemed to contain what Asael saw in this particular word. For him, teleios wasn’t ‘perfection’ in the sense of ‘flawlessness,’ with everything we’d prefer wrapped up in peace and quiet. No, to him, teleios was simply ‘wholeness’; not something impeccable, but something complete, warts and all.”
“That’s why he made it the company’s name?” Danny asked, not sure how this tied in with arms manufacturing or why he was getting his face beaten in over and over.
“Asael hoped for something very different from many of his contemporaries,” Damon went on. “At the political level, many of his fellow countrymen hoped for a world in which they would no longer have to wrestle with tyranny; at the religious level, many of the same people insisted on a day when God would remove from them the need to struggle or suffer at all.”
“Asael disliked that?”
“Profoundly,” Damon said firmly. “Though, he would likely describe it as a disagreement, and he saw that disagreement expressed in teleios. While his contemporaries fought in the revolution for the hope of eventual ‘peace,’ Asael fought to embrace the ‘wholeness’ he felt life had handed him and his people—the work of colonizing the New World, of building a company he never thought would take off, of taking care of a family, of fighting not one war but two—one having everything to do with him and another having nothing to do with him at all. Learning to embrace the whole of it was the teleios Asael found in the New Testament. Flux, struggle, work, creation, destruction, reconstruction—never-ending motion and effort, encounter and change.”
“So what does that all have to do with me?”
“You concern yourself so much with just one of my attacks,” Damon answered, “which isn’t inherently wrong. However, you do it at the expense of the others. And when I send you to the floor, you lament what happened and implicitly wish things were other than what they are.”
Danny then remembered his first conversation with Damon at the creek, two words specifically: “Existential suicide.”
“Precisely.” Damon got to his feet, holding out a hand to help Danny up. “It is by no means a comfortable philosophy, and it’s quite the challenge to live by, but this paradigm can dramatically alter the way you experience and react to the world. So, let’s try this again.”
With a newfound optimism, a hope even, Danny readied himself for another round with Damon. He tried opening himself up to the moment in its entirety, trying to ground himself there, to become mindful of everything coming his way. This was how he would do it, how he would fight this war with Arras; it wasn’t the goal itself but the process and struggle along the way that were his to worry about, to embrace.
Danny was thrown from his train of thought, over Damon’s hip, and back to the floor.
“Are you all right?” Damon asked, noticing that Danny had stopped moving for a few seconds.
“Yeah,” Danny groaned back, half of his face plastered to the floor. “Yeah, I’m good.”
“Why don’t we take a break?” Damon suggested, hearing no complaints from Danny.
Damon took his cane from the wall and they made their way to the nearby bathroom, one that was clearly built to accommodate more than the two of them. There they washed up before making their way to what looked like a lounge, though there were only a couple benches and one television in the corner of the ceiling. They both reclined on their own bench, still recovering from their mostly one-sided brawl.
“I think we’ll go back to arms training after this,” Damon said, staring up at the ceiling. “I think we need to give your body a chance to recover before going back to sparring.”
“Fine by me,” Danny muttered, laying on his side.
“How do you feel, by the way?”
“Like I survived a plane crash.”
“And otherwise? How do you feel inside?”
Danny thought about it, not sure what else to say than, “It’s only been a couple days.”
“And a week more,” Damon added. “Remember, you were training before you ever arrived here.”
“I guess you could say that.”
Danny thought about the first week, one spent arguing with Arras, each of them getting frustrated with the other, trying to reactivate the suit. The only part of the past week and a half that made him feel anything like he did now was when Arras had shot him up in the woods.
“I’m surprised Arras didn’t join us,” Danny ventured to say after a while. “I thought she was going to help me fix the suit...”
“Yes, well,” Damon said, only glancing over at Danny. “Arras is… an interesting subject, as I’m sure you’ve well noticed by now.”
“Yeah, I got that.” Feeling that sense of unease return, Danny said, “It seems like she’s been pretty pissed off lately. More than normal, I mean.”
“How do you mean?”
Trying to put his unease into words, Danny could only flounder around the feeling.
“It just feels like… I don’t know. Like she resents this whole thing more and more.” When Damon didn’t respond, he hastily added, “It’s not like I blame her or anything. We’re in a pretty crappy situation, one that she was dragged into.”
“She plays things fairly close to the vest,” Damon said quietly, more to himself than Danny.
Damon didn’t reply immediately; he looked lost in thought.
“Danny,” he finally said, “when Asael met Aurin, he mentioned him in his journal frequently—much more when he learned his secret. Though Asael obviously struggled to describe in his own eighteenth century concepts what Aurin shared with him, it’s clear that Aurin shared quite a bit.”
“That’d be nice,” Danny grumbled, feeling envious. “I know I wouldn’t understand all the details, but she could be a little more open.”
“Understand, Danny,” Damon went on, keeping his eyes on the ceiling, even when Danny turned to him. “Arras is suffering indeed, but it’s not simply because she has to train you.”
Danny thought Damon’s words over, and something started to bug him. “What are you not telling me?”
“The suit,” Damon said plainly. “To Arras, it’s more than a weapon or a symbol. There’s something there that means more to her than that. But it’s up to her if she wants to tell you that or not.”
“Things I need to know,” Danny breathed, remembering their agreement at the pavilion, “and things I don’t need to know—or, at least, things she thinks I don’t need to know.”
“The unknown is a powerful space to occupy, Danny.” Damon sat up and held his cane, sweeping his thumb over the Aries mark at its head. “Teleios was a word Asael understood far better than his contemporaries ever could, but I think his contemporaries understood one word far better than Asael himself ever could.”
“What word is that?”
“Possibility,” he said, his eyes boring into Danny’s own. “Words like maybe, perhaps, uncertainty overall—they name a boundary where definite reality ends and radical possibility begins.”
Danny wasn’t sure what Damon was saying at this point, though he didn’t interrupt. Hearing that same unexpected tone from before, Danny listened intently to Damon.
“Arras chose this war,” Damon continued. “I was raised to choose it. You were thrown into it. As a result, you stand at the edge of what you know—you’re at the edge of teleios, with the pleasure of looking ambiguity right in the eye. Much like Asael’s embrace of the wholeness of what life presented to him, it’s not whether or not you can evade that unknown ahead but what you do in the face of it. Perhaps Arras’ mission is still on; perhaps Rededication is still active; perhaps it may come here, given enough time—these are all just postulates, but, as you know, postulates are the very fabric of quantum theory. Vacuums are filled as quickly as we find them. Ambiguity like this—hoping for things you can’t see but which you still believe are there—it’s an incomparable force that has driven individuals and entire civilizations to where they never before imagined.”
Damon got to his feet and, with his cane matching every other step on his way to the door, he said, “There is a lot you don’t know yet, Danny. I’d suggest you do everything within your power to change that.”
“I thought we were—”
“Later,” Damon said, stepping over the threshold. “For now, I have to see a man about a cell phone.”
With that, Damon disappeared for most of the day, leaving Danny alone.