Dr. Nicholas Ozark looked up from his desk to see a black woman about his own age standing in the doorway of his office. She was wearing a dark blue skirt suit and a white blouse. Not a student, then, and not any faculty member that he could remember meeting. He said, "Yes, what can I do for you, Miss . . . "
"Kent," said the woman. "Brianna Kent. I'm a member of Mr. Stonegal's organization."
"Come in," he said, "have a seat. Don't worry, you can move those to the floor." He rose and shook her hand.
She closed the door, explaining, "For security's sake", and he helped her to transfer the heap of books and fanfold printout from the chair facing his desk before returning to his own seat.
"Your employer works fast," said Ozark. "I only got back here yesterday."
Kent smiled. "He can move pretty quickly for such an old man." Her face grew more serious as she continued, "Mr. Stonegal sent me here to brief you on your role in the crisis."
"Of course," she said, as if surprised that he should question having a role. "You're probably the only person in the world who fully understands the nature of the crisis the world is about to endure. There's going to be mass hysteria, as you yourself pointed out to Mr. Stonegal. We're going to need someone to counteract that hysteria, to explain what's really happened. In short, to be the voice of reason."
Ozark didn't remember using the actual phrase "mass hysteria" in his conversation with Stonegal, but it was true enough. "And Mr. Stonegal thinks I'm the man for the job?"
"He does," Kent confirmed. "He says that you give an impression of great self-confidence, and he's right. He also says you look like a young Paul Newman, and he's right about that, too."
Ozark rolled his eyes at that. He had been getting comparisons to the actor since entering his teens, and he still couldn't see it.
"Add to that," Kent continued, "the fact that, as I say, you know better than anyone else what's happening, and you make the ideal spokesman."
Ozark sat and pondered her words. It was a fact that, little as he knew about the synergistic field effect, he knew more than anyone else about it. There was also no denying that a world in the grip of chaos and mass hysteria would need to have someone stand up and be, as Miss Kent put it, the voice of reason. He had given Stonegal the task of preparing the world for the effects of the synergistic field effect, and if Stonegal chose to call on him to help with those preparations, he could hardly refuse.
He looked back up at her and said, "Very well, Miss Kent. What does Mr. Stonegal want me to do?"
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