The Torus Project

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

Chapter 11 (v.1)

Submitted: February 08, 2011

Reads: 70

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Submitted: February 08, 2011



Chapter 11
11:30 p.m., Friday
Brian and Carol closed and locked the lab door behind them, Carol deftly reinstalling the alarm once they had entered. Illuminated by the red exit light, the entryway smelled of a new building, a university-building scent Brian recognized well, possibly a mix of cleaning detergents and paint, he thought, looking up at the light. The sign seemed to be telling him what to do, that he was going against better judgment to follow Carol into her revenge scenario.
Carol flipped a light, which seemed okay since Brian had noticed there wereno windows from their trek toward the building and what looked to be its only door. She switched the light off again. Briefly ahead of them, Brian noticed the blank, white walls of a long corridor fitted with doors.
“Just to get my bearings,” she said with a quick smile.
“Tell me about the key and alarm code again?” asked Brian.
She gave Brian a sly look, pushed back her long hair, and said cryptically, “I have my ways.”
“Oh” was all Brian could think of to reply.
Moving only by emergency lighting, he started to feel a heightened sense of adrenaline. He counted three doors on each side of the main corridor, each adorned with shiny names Brian had never heard of. After 50 meters, the space opened into a large laboratory filled with neatly arranged desks, computer stations, and other electronic hardware. In the darkness, the machinery gave the scene a sense of loneliness. Brian didn’t like it.
He still took in the new-building smell but also whiffed some other chemical, like a photo-processing machine he remembered from working once at a drug store. Heard also were soft fan whirs throughout the lab space ahead of him, probably cooling off computers and equipment, he thought, though it looked like every monitor had long ago hit shutdown mode.
“Right this way,” Carol whispered. Though they seemed the only ones here, Brian couldn’t shake Dr. Kevill’s image looking at him through Dr. Uhland’s monitor earlier. Anytime, he thought, the professor would pop up on one of the nearby screens they passed and ask him what the hell he was doing. Brian even thought of Kevill as his super-conscious self, the Freudian equivalent of supreme ruler in his mind, directing actions from the background. Got to get a hold of myself . . . bad enough going to his office, but what if this is his real hangout?
The lab’s back half was about 60 meters square. Led by emergency exit signs and the occasional machine with small, running lights, Carol confidently walked Brian through the tiled maze of microscopes, computer accessories, plants, and other large, metallic items he couldn’t guess at. They also passed the lab’s clean room, which was separated by glass and its own, secure door. He had read about the necessity of cleanliness in nano-labs. With such small components, any outside contaminants could mess up crucial research.
“Where are we going?” Brian whispered back to Carol.
“You’ll see. This is where Josh took me once.” Her excitement outshone Brian’s nervousness, and he felt in awe of Carol’s intelligence to remember an alarm code after only a one look. A few seconds later, they paused in front of one particular computer monitor on the far end of the room, its flat screen displaying nothing but black. “Here it is.”
“Here is what?” Brian noticed a gray-walled cubicle housed the large monitor and a modern-looking workstation of speckled off-white surfaces and black underside and legs. The keyboard wasset into the desktop itself, and beside the desk rested a copier-sized machine of dark metal from which a microscope-looking eyepiece protruded. Below the eyepiece and behind glass was an airtight chamber with a small, glass door for access. Though dark, Brian thought the device looked like an egg hatchery or incubation chamber similar to the onehe had seen in high school back in Nebraska.
“Just go over to the eyepiece,” Carol said. “I’ll get the computer running in a second. Pretty cool stuff!”
Brian glanced down the entry corridor, still worried about detection, before approaching the incubation machine.
“You sure they don’t have, like, surveillance cameras and stuff, Carol?” Brian said. 
“I don’t think so. We came about this time of night a few months ago, and I asked the same thing. Josh was a little tipsy and so asked me to log into this computer to get a glimpse.”“What’s in here anyway?” he said.
“You’ll see. Okay.” She brought a control panel of sorts up on the monitor. Brian noticed the words “Diagnostic” and “Protein” at the top of the push-button controls. Within the display, a series of numbers he assumed were magnification levels were placed in rows. Other terms were in smaller print, but Brian didn’t understand their significance.
Carol pressed a few digits. “Now, look into the eyepiece for a sight.” Before Brian did, he noticed a picture replaced the control panel on Carol’s monitor, supposedly the same thing he would be looking at now. But, upon looking into the microscope, what he saw didn’t resemble at all the design on the touch screen. Or maybe it did but only in a magnified form?
Within the machine, somewhere, teemed life! Straight out of a biology book, Brian noticed a series of long fibers that looked to him like pieces of thick rope or wire along side each other. He knew that these fibers were actually from living tissue. What hit him more than the appearance of magnified tissue, though, looked to be hundreds of individual shapes moving along and even through the fibers. The moving creatures—which resembled little oval-shaped cotton balls—had no legs or tails or anything like that. They didn’t move, either, like an amoeba or parasite that Brian could remember from his biology lab class a year or so back. No, instead, the cotton-ball shapes moved very precisely, almost like robots, along the tissues and within the spaghetti-like mass that connected the rope-tissues together.
“What is this?” he asked, not taking his eyes off the magnified picture.
“Pretty neat, huh?” Carol sat on a chair of her own and scooted it closer to Brian, causing him to notice her faint, sweet perfume for the first time. “Josh told me they were studying rat tissue or something like that . . . how to manipulate the nuclei in their muscle fibers.”
“Yeah. Let me see for a second.” They switched positions, Carol placing her hand on Brian’s back in the move. “Yes. The long things are the muscle fibers, I think, and the hairy-looking stuff is regular connective tissue. What they have implanted into this scene are the little bugs moving around in a precise fashion.”
Brian wanted to see more. “You mean they’re experimenting with nano materials and living tissue?”
“Exactly.” Carol let Brian in again. He noticed her retrieving a red-colored flash drive from her jeans’ pocket and inserting it into the lab computer. “Something about being able to help people who have lost muscular control in an accident or even from birth. But aides used now, like wheelchairs and canes and such, will be extinct once nano devices mend the damaged areas.”“Amazing!”
“Yep. They’re doing a number of nano projects like that here—according to Josh at least.”
Just then they heard a bang coming from the front of the building, the entryway, followed by someone letting out a cough.“Oh, shit!” said Carol. “Someone’s here! Duck down behind a desk or something!” Brian did just that, listening carefully for the person or people who had entered the building. I’m in for it now, he thought. Doctor Kevill will find me, report me, and I can kiss college goodbye!
Carol punched off the computer monitor, retrieving her mini-drive, and huddled next to Brian behind a cubicle wall.
For 15 long seconds they paused until, finally, a person entered the large lab area where they hid. Still behind the wall, Carol braved a peek through the space leftbetween two partitions. She motioned her friend to follow suit.
One eye shut, sweat covering his forehead, Brian looked toward the entryway and the lab’s one elevator that stood just around the corner from the corridor opening. What he saw shocked him almost as much as seeing Dr. Kevill earlier that evening. Daka. Daka, wasn’t it? Yes, Dr. Kevill’s companion stood in front of the elevator with a cigarette burning in one hand, inserting something into the wall with his other hand. The doors soon opened, but, just as he was about to enter, Carol accidentally nudged her rolling chair, causing it to slide into the nearby desk. The sound wasn’t much and had been masked somewhat by the elevator doors opening, but it was enough to carry across the dead lab.
“Shit!” she whispered.
Brian noticed Daka, who still wore the loose and colorful shirt he had seen on the man earlier that day, pause in front of the elevator, which was about 40 meters away, turn, and stroll toward the pair.
“Hide!” Carol said again in a whisper. Her wide eyes pulled in what little light was around them.
Hide? Where does she think we can hide? At his low vantage point, Brian noticed Daka extinguish his cigarette on a nearby table and continue intheir direction. The elevator doors closed, covering Brian’s crawl further under the cubicleddesk. He noticed Carol scamper toward another desk five meters away. Silence hit for a good 30 seconds, though he knew Daka had not left the area. Then Brian heard him, his shoes creaking within arm’s reach. He opted to peer again through cracks and noticed Daka’s dark-brown sandals had paused, the wearer evidently listening.
Ten more agonizing seconds, and Brian, holding his breath, heard the sandals creak again, peeked, and saw them about-face, heading back toward the elevator. He let out his held air in relief. The elevator doors opened again and closed.
“That was close!” said Carol, still whispering. “Now who’s coming here this time of night?”
Brian wiped his brow of sweat. “Looked like Kevill’s friend, some university doctor by the name of Daka, I think.”
“How do you know?” They stood up, eyeing the elevator.
“Met him with Doctor Kevill today. Must be part of the research team.”
“Hmm—Well, who ever he is, let’s get out of here.”“What about your revenge scenario?” Brian couldn’t believe he was reminding Carol, but there had been a risk taken tonight. And he did want to know what she had had in mind.
“What?” Carol had started toward the front door. She flipped her hair back and smiled. “Oh. Already done. While you were looking in the microscope, I inserted a nice, friendly virus into Josh’s hard drive.”
“You what?”
“A virus. But no, it’s not going to wipe out everyone’s data, if that’s what you’re thinking. Just give Josh a little scare come Monday morning.” She gave Brian a wink before walking out of the lab area. “Come on!”
“What kind of scare?” Brian ventured to ask his more-wild-than-he-had-thought friend.
She punched in the alarm code to deactivate and then activate the alarm, motioning for Brian to leave. “You know, the type that makes him think his hard drive is deleted, just long enough for a little, tickly feeling in his stomach and shivers through his head.”
“Right.” They noticed Daka’s Volvo in the lot, the car immaculate inside and out, with nothing on the seats or dash to give Brian any clues by peering through the windows what this African was all about. And, as they trotted to Carol’s car in silence, Brian couldn’t help but think his whole life grew harder and harder to discern. 
His idol, Dr. Kevill, steeped in government intrigue. His friends acting strange. A new girl entering his life. Even himself out on limbs that could jeopardize his role as a father and an old-fashioned, hard-working student. Where the heck are things heading here anyway? Did he want to know more about Dr. Kevill’s experiments and, maybe, get involved in them as his senior project? Or did he just want to be involved in some type of caper to keep his interest? Was he being daring in order to be accepted by others? Brian’s psychological training clicked in—and Kevill’s little belief homework, too—as he analyzed his life situation on the drive back to his apartment. He felt confused, overwhelmed, not an enjoyable feeling since he prided himself in tight control of his life.
But what did he expect if he took risks? Things were bound to shake up if he actively went to talk to Dr. Kevill and sought answers to questions that came his way. Thoughts of his dead wife stormed into his head, signifying, he knew, a need to feel comfort from another person. Brian knew that his safe niche of going to class and going home to be with Wilson had somehow been broken and that he had to choose, and soon, between running away again to the confines of being a simple student or embracing something more . . . being a father, a lover, and, basically, a person craving for more meaning.
Rebecca, what would you do? But she wasn’t there to give him an answer. No family but Wilson, no military brassaround to tell him what to do. For the first time in his life, Brian realized he was the one to make decisions shaping his own life. Only he could choose to be happy. The insight hit him like a punch tothe stomach, and, once he and Carol had reached his apartment, Brian was forming his own revenge plan, this one being against the old doubts and fears that haunted him.
From the basement lab, Dr. Daka Nabouti viewed a clear picture of Brian and Carol entering Brian’s apartment, and, about 10 minutes later, Jackie and Carol leaving again. He then switched to another camera. Dr. Frank Barnes slept fitfully in the office across from the control room where they had originally inoculated him and down the hall where the African sat. Daka watched as the government agent, still dressed in his dark suit and tie, eyes closed, got up and walked around, talking to himself, often gesturing, before lying back down again on the hard floor. 
A beep signified an incoming call.
“Yes, sir.”
“Have you installed the devices?” Dr. Kevill’s voice piped over Barnes’ picture.
“Good. And how is our guest?”
“Fitful, Doctor Kevill. How long shall I monitor on him?”
“Another hour or so and he should fall back asleep . . . brain reformation,” said Kevill.
“Interesting process.” Daka took another huff on his cigarette. “They inhale; they are transformed. Wonder if we could market a cigarette that would have the same effect? The tobacco companies would pay a fortune.”
“Yes, very funny, Doctor Nabouti. You’re not smoking in the lab, are you? Switch to video, please.”
Daka pressed a button, allowing each to see one another. “You know that if your smoke triggers an extinguisher, the whole project could be in jeopardy, don’t you?” Kevill’s face filled the monitor, with only glimpses of the room behind him, a black couch, maybe another person sitting there.
“Right, sir.” He extinguished the cigarette on the office’s steel table. “And how is Ms. Riviera?”
Kevill turned, revealing Madalene lounging behind him in a bathrobe and what looked to Daka to be nothing else. “Just fine, Doctor Nabouti,” she said. “Are you ready to take Andy’s little project to a whole new level?”
“I am, ma’am. I am a servant to the cause . . . Doctor Kevill, I believe our next onewill be an easy catch if I get him alone on campus somewhere.”
Kevill’s face filled the screen again. Daka noticed graying hair about bare shoulders. “What have you in mind?” “Your present-in-a-box idea is good, but it won’t work here,” the African said. “I say spray him directly with the inoculant. Easy target. Easy results.”
“Easy?” Kevill snickered.
“Easy, Doctor Kevill. I promise. Years of being careful kept me alive.”
“Good. Contact me when you are about to engage. Josh and I need to set the nanites for the procedure.”
“Yes.” Daka turned to sever their connection and continue keeping an eye on their DOD captive.
“And, Daka?”
“Yes, sir.”
“One with the Torus.”
“Quite so, sir. We are One with the Torus . . . as the others will soon discover.”
“Yes. The other pinch is a go for tomorrow, too?”“Still in my sights, sir. No problem. Josh and I transfixed the nanites earlier today.”
“Excellent. Then I’ll see you in the lab tomorrow morning. Quite a busy night we have had.”
“Josh and my star student, Brian Minor.”
“Had an encounter . . . Fill you in tomorrow. Good night.”“’Night, sir. Sleep well. I believe Doctor Hays would have been proud of you.”
Kevill’s face screwed up at the reference. “Anthony Hays knew nothing of the power I have created! His only goal made no sense! He was shortsighted, Doctor Nabouti. Don’t forget that!”
“But you both wanted peace, sir. Am I right?” Daka scratched at a small burn scar on his left cheek.
“Peace for Tony meant a process of decades. How often did he tell me we wouldn’t even see the fruits of our labor?” Kevill calmed himself, taking a few deep breaths. “Yes, Doctor Hays would have been proud of the directions in which we have gone with the project. But, in the end, he was only a pawn. I can’t say I’m sorry he’s gone . . . Good night, Daka.”
“Good night.” The connection went dark, forcing Daka to once again look at Barnes and to look inside himself at what he was getting himself into.

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