The Torus Project

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 10 (v.1)

Submitted: February 06, 2011

Reads: 59

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Submitted: February 06, 2011

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Chapter 10
11:00 p.m., Friday
Carol wasagitated when she and Brian got in her car and sped away from Dr. Uhland’s house. She gripped the steering wheel with both hands and, he noticed, broke a few speed limits.
After a few kilometers, she said, “Now, what was that all about? I thought Doctor Uhland would be a perfect source for your research. Why did we have to ditch him?”
“Sorry, Carol,” said Brian, holding his seat to avoid bouncing. “It’s just that once I saw Kevill’s face on that monitor, I freaked! He now knows I’m sneaking around. That I know of his connection to the nanotechnology!”
“And so what?” Carol snapped. “What’s he going to do, Brian, saw your legs off or surround your feet with concrete and throw you in Lake Overholser? Can’t you just talk to him . . . or better yet, why don’t you talk to Josh about the whole disc thing? He’ll understand. Mike’s mistake, wasn’t it?”
But Brian didn’t think Carol understood. Or maybe he didn’t fully understand. Things seemed to be happening too fast. First, Amber showing up, then Mike’s strangely encoded flash drive and behavior, and now finding out Dr. Kevill could be mixed in a government project. What was going to happen next? Kevill proving to be a mad scientist with tiny robots filling the landscape to assist his plot to conquer the world?
Brian caught himself looking at Carol’s knobby knees as she gassed and braked the car. “No offense, Carol, but you didn’t see how Mike acted after he missed his final. And that African-looking man I saw with Kevill. Everything seems to add up to something. I just can’t figure it out yet.”
“Whatever you say,” she said. “I think you may be making up that your Doctor Kevill and my Doctor Uhland are into a top-secret project or something.”
Brian took the possessive cue and decided to do some confronting of his own. “Your Doctor Uhland, eh? And what’s up with that? I appreciate you taking me to a safe spot for research, but I felt a little awkward at his house.”
“Well, yes,” said Carol, shooting Brian a glare. “If you must know, we had a relationship that was more than friends. But it’s over.”
“None of my business.” Both paused for a few more kilometers as the car went from Dr. Uhland’s out-of-the-way country place into the city.
Carol, though, evidently needed to talk more about their visit. “We had a relationship,” she spurted once they hit a more crowded area, where students gathered to take off the stress of final’s week—hitting the bars and clubs, laughing as if they had no more worries in the world. “That’s why I switched from computing science to psychology. Mainly why, anyway.”
“Oh.” Brian felt pressed from the candid information. He also recognized Carol opening up to him, which made her even more attractive somehow. “Well, I’m glad you have interests in both areas . . . computing science and psychology, I mean.”
“Yeah,” she said, frowning, probably stirred, he thought, into thinking about her relationship and a department stink over it. “Just didn’t feel right to be hanging around the computing science department after what happened. Don’t know why I took you to his house tonight, though. Wanted to see him again, I guess.” He noticed her eyes glistened from the street lights.
“I understand,” said Brian. “And maybe you’re right. Only a project Doctor Kevill is helping with. Pretty strange seeing his face . . . kinda spooked me.”
Carol’s expression changed. She looked over at Brian and chuckled. “Hah! That would have messed me up, too!” She paused, her face now solid, expressionless.
“The bastard,” Carol said in a low tone.
“Men are the pits, huh, Carol?”
“Some of them.” She looked at Brian, her eyebrows raised, her voice animated. “Look, Brian. I think old Josh Uhland needs a taste of his own medicine. Are you in?”
“Wh . . . What do you mean?” Brian had been around Carol enough to know that she was very smart, and a smart woman scorned could mean trouble at any time.
“Are you in or out? A quick stop on the way to your apartment. Okay?”
“Okay, but I don’t want to hurt the guy or mess up his equipment or anything.”
“No, no, no.” She clicked her tongue. “It’s not going to be like that. A little pain, like the arrow he shot my way . . . and my college career’s way. All right?”
“Sure. But if he’s linked to Doctor Kevill . . . ?”
“Oh,” Carol replied, her lips pulled tight, a mischievous look now on her face.“I don’t think much of that, Brian. Just a coincidence. That’s all.”
“I hope you’re right. So where to, Ms. Computer Genius?”
“Watch and learn, Brian. Watch and learn.” She pressed the accelerator and sped past the main campus buildings.
Doctor Uhland must have really hurt her, Brian thought. And, after being less than receptive to her that night at Sam’s, he wouldn’t put it past Carol to do something a little evil to get back at men in general. Hopefully, being along for the ride didn’t include him as well.
 
#
 
Daka proceeded through the parking lot of student housing a little past eleven, using his cell to beep Dr. Kevill before slipping the device into a pocket.
“Yes?” came the psych professor’s voice, sounding annoyed by the interruption.
“Sorry to bother you, doctor, but I’ve noticed more activity through our Nano link here on campus.” Daka relied only on his microphone-equipped earpiece to convey both sides of the conversation.
Kevill paused. “What? Impossible! Our esteemed student and his friend only recently used the link at Josh’s house . . . and I know you wouldn’t be able to track that!”
“Repeat, sir. The link was used at Doctor Uhland’s?” Daka paused in his walk toward Brian and Wilson’s apartment and leaned against a light pole, lighting a cigarette in the nice night air.
“A story I’m still trying to figure out,” said Kevill, “but, yes, Josh had some guest pop up at his door this evening . . . Where’s the link being accessed? Did you track it?”
“Yes, sir. Mista Minor’s apartment, it seems . . . but you say he’s not here?” The African stared at a pair of female students heading toward their car, causing them to walk faster.
Kevill didn’t miss the reference. “Here? Are you not in the lab, Daka?”
“No, sir. I locked up . . . after checking on Mista Barnes, of course.”
Another pause and a deep sigh on Kevill’s end. “I would have preferred you contacted me first, Doctor Nabouti.”
“Yes, sir.” The African took a long pull from his cigarette and let out a thin stream of smoke. “How should I proceed?” “Looks like someone else is accessing the information other than our Minor . . . but from the same apartment. Ah, shit! We need to batten these link leaks!”
“Yes, sir.” Daka moved to stand by a cube of small, metal mailboxes near the stairs up to Brian and Wilson’s apartment. “Should I proceed to the apartment and have a look?” Moved by Kevill’s urgency, Daka felt an old itch to do something. How easy to break into the apartment and access its computer. He knew how simple it would be to cut the “leak” once and for all.
“Just surveillance, Daka. Just surveillance.” Kevill’s voice was tired, raspy.
“A camera to keep track of them?” he said, pulling out a small device from his front shirt pocket. “Mini . . . no one will detect.”
“Hmmm,” said Kevill. “Okay. Go ahead and place it outside his door and affix a link back at the lab.”
“Yes, sir. On my way.”
Daka threw down his cigarette, stomped it out, and proceeded up the stairs toward Brian’s apartment. He paused on the last step to take a good look around and placed his micro-camera on the wall above the door of the opposite apartment on the second-floor landing. The camera, colored silver with a strong adhesive to help it stay in place, was about the size and look of a nail head that had been hammered to the spot.
Espionage complete, he went to activate the device in his car. Before entering the Volvo, though, he gazed up at the window of Brian’s apartment, noticing someone breaking open the internal blinds. Though hard to make out, the eyes and hair matched those of a female. Brian’s girlfriend? Daka thought, getting in and starting the car. Amber, was it? Or some other?
He made a mental note of the occupant and sped back to his new home in America, a pristine white laboratory, full of promises for peace, power, and his future life.
 
#
 
“Did you procure the data?” Josh had contacted Kevill after Carol and Brian left, again via the kitchen mini-monitor.
“No, sir. Not a chance. Shall I call them back to see what I can do?”
Kevill wiped his forehead, frowning through the link. “And just ask for the disc? . . . Come on. Be straight with me. Are you fucking the gentiles?”
“Truthfully, I did see a student of mine. But it was innocuous . . . believe me. I kept the strictest privacy.”
“I believe you, Josh.” Kevill’s tone was calm and smooth now. “Though, it seems, you’ve already led wolves into the sheep’s den, huh?”
“Hardly wolves, Herr Doctor.” Dark brows furrowed, Josh leaned on his kitchen counter, facing Kevill on the mini-monitor. His jaw muscles flexed unconsciously. “More like, eh, kids in a candy store. A good American analogy for it.”
Good and American in the same sentence, Josh? You know better than that.” Kevill smiled demurely, letting his right-hand man know he had been forgiven. “Look. Can’t you put a damper on the links provided by that darn flash drive? Can’t we reroute them somehow so those kids won’t get into any more trouble?”
“A good idea, doctor. But I don’t understand how they got into Reynold’s computer in the first place. Our quantum encryption is top-line. Odds of accidentally crossing into our mainframe are a hundred million to one. But I’ll get on it.”
“You do that. And continue to notify me when old links are accessed, as you did with Mister Reynolds. No more leaks.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Excellent . . . I’ll see about getting the actual data back from our problem student. And, Josh—”
“—yes, sir?”
“Watch yourself. Women spell trouble. Sex and women even more. We’re entering into a delicate phase. Fuck ups aren’t acceptable. Got me?”
“Right.”
“One with the Torus, Josh?”
“One, sir. Always one with the Torus.”
“Keep reminding yourself of that, my friend. The grand essence, our picture, our paradigm for life.” He winked. “Kevill out.”
 
#
 
Carol took Brian away from where Dr. Uhland lived and closer to the center of town. Brian noticed most buildings on campus looked the same—ruddy-brick colored with white wood trim around windows and doors. A similar building, about a kilometer past the campus proper, stood 100 meters away from their car. In front of their destination, a parking arm was clamped shut, forbidding them from getting too close. Carol skidded into an open lot across the street and shut off the motor.
“What’s this?” asked Brian, wondering if she might be luring him into breaking and entering just to get back at her old computer professor flame . . . and hurt all men she knew in the process. The parking lot of the campus building across the street, which looked to hold only about 25 cars maximum, lay empty now. The one-story building itself, he noticed as they exited the car and headed that direction, had a wide array of electronics on the roof—satellites and antennae.
“Part of our esteemed university’s Nanotech Initiative,” Carol said, readying a different key from her chain than the one that fit her car, a heavy, silver key, unmarked. “The computing science part, at least.” Even though all was quiet, Carol paused to look around. Fields of mowed grass surrounded the brick building, and a housing edition started past a chain link fence a few hundred meters behind it.
“Looks safe,” she said. “Come on before the local police make their rounds!”
“Nanotech!” Brian said. “So this isn’t where OU runs all its research?”
“No. Engineering has a big lab on campus, too.” Carol headed toward the building’s only door, steel, white-painted, and marked by a square sign: “OU Department of Computing Science. Authorized Personnel Only.”
“How’d you know about this place?” Brian ran fingers through his hair and glanced around. The light shining above the door made him feel vulnerable, naked. What am I doing?
“I have my ways,” Carol replied, taking another quick scan of the area before inserting the key into the front deadbolt. “Keep a look out while I disengage the alarm.”
“The alarm?” Brian put a hand on her arm. “I don’t want to get in trouble here, Carol. We get caught, and I can kiss my GI Bill goodbye . . . and probably be in jail, too!”
Carol paused before turning the key and glared at Brian. “What? Are you chicken?”
“No. Not chicken. Just smart. What do you want to do here anyway? And how the hell did you get that key?” Brian kept his hand on Carol’s arm and stared back. “Oh, let me guess . . . Doctor Uhland, right?”
“Right.” Her wrinkled up eyes gleamed in the light. Lips drew tight in what Brian took to be serious concentration. “Look, Brian, do you want to know what’s going on around here or not? We can just go home right now if you want, but I can tell you, there’s some interesting stuff in here.”
“Does Doctor Uhland know you have that key?”
“Not exactly,” said Carol, looking past Brian to check for others. “Come on! Someone could spot us any second!”
Brian bit his lip. Okay, so he could enter the unknown and take a risk—but, he thought, but if I get caught, I’ll lose big time . . . lose money, freedom, maybe even Wilson. She does have a key, though, and we could say we’re researchers or something. . . . Yeah, right. Risks. Changes. Now was a time for Brian, he felt, to do. Since entering college, all he had done was study, study, study, with only a few dates and, really, no social life to speak of. And, now, here comes this mystery. A nanotech initiative? And he could see in its core? Now, he was on the verge of reaching into his life and finding something real. More than study. Doing. His pulse quickened.
“Okay. Get rid of the alarm. I don’t know what you want to do in here, so let’s just keep it short.”
“Right.” Carol smiled a bit and opened the door, revealing only the red light from an inside exit sign. A few moments later, she popped her head out. “Let’s see what our university is building in here.”


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