The Torus Project

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

Chapter 15 (v.1)

Submitted: February 08, 2011

Reads: 51

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Submitted: February 08, 2011



Chapter 15
2:43 p.m., Saturday
“We had a virus.”
Kevill and Josh had completed a check of the mainframe upstairs and found it had been tampered with. Only the periodic backup of data saved their project from some minor corruption by an implanted computer bug.
“Just how the hell did that virus get there?” Kevill was steamed, his face red. Now in the lab’s office downstairs, he had pinned Josh against the steel table.
“Not sure, doctor. Not sure. I believe it had a tag with my signature on it, though, my password. It followed me specifically through the network. I’ll have to do more checks.”
“You do that.” He leaned against the office wall, wiping his brow. “It’s good we had the system built in duplicate, or the whole damn thing would have been shot!”
“Backups are regular operation, Doctor Kevill. I just need to—” Josh had stopped in mid-sentence, looking at the computer display he now sat in front of.
“What?” said Kevill.
“Looks like the link became active again during our reboot of the system.”
“The link? What link?”
Josh turned to face Kevill again. “From the flash drive, sir. The one the Reynolds boy made.”
“But I thought he’d gotten that back today! Put me in contact with him.”
Josh pushed a few more buttons on the computer keyboard. “Not from Reynolds. I see a direct connect to the other student, Brian Minor’s place.”
“What? How could he without the damn data?”
“Must have copied the information to his hard drive before giving the flash up . . . He now knows the project name and basic information about us as recorded by the D-O-D.”
Kevill went quiet for about 30 seconds, playing with his ponytail. “Not good. Who knows what the little mole will do with that info now. Get me Amber. I think it’s time to put her back to work.” He contemplated the implications of yet another person finding out about the project. Inoculations weren’t that simple. The process took time and resources. But, if word spread about the student population and got to the university powers that be, questions would be asked, and he might as well shut Project Torus down.
“It’s high time we took Mister Minor into our side of the issue, don’t you think, Josh?”
Josh had made contact with Amber, whose stats now read on the office’s holo link.
“Amber, my dear. Doctor Kevill here. And how are you today?”
“Fine.” Amber, who was sitting in her apartment, felt the connection as if Kevill were sitting next to her. She had gotten more used to these periodic tests of unconventional communication. It usually meant Kevill had something important to say, too. “What is it?”
“A bit testy today, my girl?”
“Look, I’m not your girl. Got it?”
“What ever you say. And how have you been feeling lately?”
“Better. No thanks to you.”
“Yes, no thanks to me. I don’t expect any laudations or congratulations. Only results, eh?”
Amber didn’t respond.
“Are you seeing our esteemed Mister Minor today, my dear?”
“Well, we need for you to stop by the lab beforehand. We have a present for him, you see.” Kevill looked up at Josh and nodded as if to say “get the ball rolling on it.”
“Is that an affirmation that you’ll be here, oh, say, in a few hours?”
“Good. Good. Kevill out then.” He disconnected the link to her mind through the nanites.
Amber didn’t respond again, though her vital signs on the office holo registered an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
Kevill sat down and leaned back, his hands clasped behind his head. “I really seem to get to the girl, eh, Josh?”
“I’d say so, Herr Doctor.” Josh had headed toward the office door to prepare their “present” for Brian in the main lab. He turned back toward Kevill. “Do you think she’s safe?”
“Safe, Josh?”
“Well, we’ve already placed her on point two – zero, and she still seems somewhat combative.”
Kevill ran fingers through his hair and let out a sigh.
“To tell you the truth, Josh, I’m glad she’s somewhat combative, as you put it. I see the woman as a little bit my own daughter, frankly. Her temperament is refreshing so long as it doesn’t jeopardize our work here, you know.” He looked down at the computer keyboard as if remembering something.
“Her father runs through her too much maybe?” Josh said.
Kevill shot him a look. “Doctor Hays was a genius, yes, Josh. But in the end, he was too shortsighted. Amber knows that I feel this way about her father. She knows, too, that my way is best for everyone involved.”
“I hope you’re right, doctor. I hope our Ms. Hays doesn’t cause any trouble.”
“Yes, Josh. I hope I’m right, too. I wouldn’t want to have to do something drastic, something I might regret later down the line.”
“Oh, nothing. Let’s get ready for the quilting group and Mister Minor’s present, shall we?”
Amber sighed. Her head ached. She knew about obligations to Dr. Kevill’s project. She felt the pull to make a change in the world. But things were working too fast. She didn’t like how Kevill was going about things, changing people, including herself, against their will. Maybe it was for the better. Maybe not. To be sure, she enjoyed the greater powers she now had. Infinite knowledge. A feeling of connectedness to everything around her. The ability to talk to others using only her mind.
The experiment on her had lasted more than three months. At first she had the flu-like illness, and since she had been racked with some nasty headaches. The illness, she knew, meant they had upped her dosage for control. It had worked. She didn’t think of betraying the project and jeopardizing its outcomes. But the nanites in her system craved more. It was hard to explain, but her simple student life was becoming less and less of a fit. Was she looking for a relationship with someone else? Did her increased acumen crave a match like her?
She thought about Kevill’s supposed present for Brian. She knew what the gift meant. Kevill was planning to inoculate Brian . . . by her . . . that very night. And a large part of Amber felt the need to carry the plan out, not simply for any subservience to Kevill but mainly because she wanted Brian, like herself, to be able to know and do more. Parents dead, no siblings. Amber felt very alone. Only Dr. Kevill had served as her surrogate father since her real dad had died about a year ago. Being part machine may have increased her abilities, but, ironically, it increased her capacity for feeling alone. Hopefully, she thought, tonight would change all of that. Brian Minor would become her new soul mate. He was a perfect match.
“Ladies! Welcome!”
Kevill greeted the Fratameier entourage after they had exited the lab elevator to the basement floor. As geese, they bobbled behind Daka, who held the still unconscious Rachel George in his muscled arms. Fratameier, coming to the front of the flock, himself nervously adjusted his glasses and coughed. He saw Kevill and recognized the professor, his voice cracking. “Doctor Andrew Kevill? Doctor Kevill, what is this all about?”“All about? All about knowing God better, my dear doctor.” Kevill turned to escort them to the lab’s main chamber. “I see you recognize me, esteemed Doctor Fratameier. Now you can know me much better, much better.”
Mary Baker spoke from the back of the group. “What about Rachel here, Doctor . . . ah . . . Kevill or whatever your name is? What are you going to do with her?”
Kevill turned for a moment to take a look at Daka and his load and then at Mary.
“She should be just fine in a matter of hours, Ms. Baker. Just fine. Please, ladies, trust me to tell you everything. Come, come to see the wonder of what you have become a part!”
He nodded to Daka and pointed to the office ahead where Frank Barnes had received his own inoculation not 24 hours ago. Kevill then moved his arms forward like an airport employee steering a landed plane to park, moving quickly down the corridor to the level’s main room.
Leaving Daka and Rachel behind, the tour group entered the main lab room, with a few of the ladies saying “ah” at the sight of the mote-filled pillar of light. Josh stood off to the side fiddling with a server unit that connected to one of the room’s four actuators.
“Wh . . . What is it?” said Fratameier, who approached the magnified beam and looked as if he meant to reach out to touch it. Josh quickly intercepted the older man, even though the beam’s protective glass layer would have prevented any real harm.
“Please, sir. It’s fragile.”
“Just like the human condition, eh, Josh? . . . Ladies and gentleman, please meet my assistant, Doctor Josh Uhland. A fine product of Germany. He’s the brains behind our endeavor, no doubt about it.” Kevill, too, placed himself between Fratameier and the beam of light. “And this, this is our baby, a production line of small critters we call nanites, computers so small, a thousand could easily fit on the end of your pinky.”A few of the ladies looked at their hands then back at the living pillar.
Fratameier blinked rapidly. “But wh . . . what keeps them in place, doctor? And what does this have to do with the Spirit I’ve felt so strongly in me these past months?”
“Superconductivity. You should know a little about that, eh, doctor?” Kevill was in his domain now, spinning words and eye contact in a fully charismatic display. “The illuminated aspect, really, is all for show, is to allow us to see the full effect more clearly here in the lab. Formed in the four actuators you see aligned on the four walls in here, the nano-computers are then gently jostled along this centerpiece you see before you, awaiting the next host. We’ve had to encase the glass in a diamond compound as well since the particles would escape otherwise.”
“Host? You mean us?” said Mary Baker, who moved up beside Fratameier for a better view.
“In a word, yes,” Kevill replied, his eyes as wide as his smile. “You are now part computer. And hasn’t it been a lovely experience, eh, Doctor Fratameier?”
The chemistry professor looked down from the light and all around the antiseptic room in disbelief. “No!” he shouted. “This can’t be! I’ve been in communion with the Lord, not some microscopic world I couldn’t see!”
Kevill approached the distraught man, placing a hand on Fratameier’s shoulder. “But aren’t they the same thing, my fellow teacher? Your Lord, the smallness, the beauty of the world? Haven’t you been gifted to see all around you with a new pair of eyes since opening Pandora’s Box in your home, the very box mechanism you so willingly opened today at the behest of your Lord?”
“But . . . but I heard the voices! I felt the contact!” Fratameier paced around the low-lit room in a panic.
“More than anyone else here, doctor, you should know the power of the chemicals that race through us everyday. You know the components, the fibers that make upa molecular world! It is the power of this molecular, this nanotechnological world that has graced you with insight, new-found energy, and strength. Yes, doctor, the Lord does move through you in miraculous ways. You have always had a bond with every element on this earth, but, now . . . now, you are more aware of such contact.”
Fratameier stared at Kevill in disbelief, his face showing great shock. The other four women, too, look frightened. They looked at each other, back toward the elevator upstairs, and at their professor friend who now seemed so distraught.
“Feel it, ladies. Feel the power of the Torus, a model of the universe where everything is interconnected. Feel your tie to one another, to the nanites still in this room!”
A quiet hit those in the lab, only broken by Daka closing an adjacent room’s door behind as he left Rachel George to her sleep.
“How’s she doing, Daka?” said Kevill. He paused for a moment to cross husky arms on his chest.
“She will be fine, sir. She breathes heavily. I’m sure she will awake soon.”
“Good. Good.” Kevill now moved about the group again, patting backs and shaking hands. “Now, my friends, I leave you to your own lives again. But know this. I expect you to be stalwart ambassadors to the cause, so to speak.” He faced Fratameier. “I apologize, doctor, but we had to keep you in the dark until now in order to increase our flock. Now that you know, though, I’m sure you will only increase the chatter about how wonderful things can be with the Lord.”
“But I . . . I don’t think this is the Lord anymore,” stuttered Fratameier. “I d . . . don’t know what to think.”
“Us either, Doctor Kevill.” Mary Baker stood with her hands on her hips. “How do you expect us not to go straight to the police on this, huh?”
Kevill turned on her and countered. “And you think they will believe you? We have a Defense Department project going on here. All top secret. Who’s going to believe a bunch of quilters who say they’ve been implanted with a computer virus, eh? Who’s going to believe that?” Josh and Daka nodded their heads in unison.
“What we’ve given you is power. We’ve given you energy and knowledge! So go out and don’t change your lives. I care not! But the thoughts inside of you now, I believe, will propel you to share the good news of the Torus and the way that everyone can be a part of our project.
“Just think! No famine. No war. No poverty. Harmony, peace, prosperity! This is what we offer you and anyone else for that matter. A little at a time we step forward for the grace of mankind!”
“And womankind, too, Doctor Kevill?” said Mary Baker, who had stepped up to look Kevill in the eye. “And womankind, too?”
“I see you are starting to catch on, Ms. Baker. I like your style.” Kevill turned to face the pillar of light. “Look, I know all of you are skeptical. I know this is a big change. One moment quilting, the next connected to the universe, eh?”
He smiled lazily and turned back toward his captive audience again.
“But you will come to see that everyone is entitled to explore the best of themselves. We all deserve the most of technology in an easy-to-digest, inexpensive way. We have just given you this. Today is your birthday for a new life!”
The women and Dr. Fratameier looked at each other, at the pillar of light, at Josh, Daka, and the actuators. They conversed with each other for a few minutes in mumbled tones, a few facing their backs to the main lab room in order to better understand the situation.
“We have a deal,” said Mary Baker after a minute or so. “We won’t lodge a complaint or cause any problems as long as this . . . procedure . . . goes okay for us. You did this against our will, you know, Doctor Kevill. A lady doesn’t take kindly a man taking advantage of her . . . But if Rachel’s okay, and we feel fine in a few days, we’ll go along with things for now.” The other women, even Dr. Fratameier, nodded their heads, their newly acquired necklaces gleaming in the light.
Kevill looked at them a moment and flashed his teeth, stretching a hand out to Mary’s for a solid shake. “Agreed. I can promise you that this will change your life for the better. A little illness now to start, but after that, be ready for superhuman abilities!”
“Superhuman, I think, is not what we are after, Doctor Kevill,” said Mary. “We just want to live in peace and happiness. If your experiment allows us to do that better, then so be it.”
“Gotcha,” said Kevill. “Now, if you will allow Josh and Daka here to talk to you a little bit more about what is behind your conversion, I have other business to attend.”
“Okay, Doctor Kevill,” said Mary, “we’ll be in touch.”
Kevill walked toward the elevator, saying under his breath, “More than you know, dear Ms. Baker. More than you know.”
Mary Baker showed up at Brian’s apartment door promptly at 6 p.m. dressed in the same pants and blouse combination that she had worn earlier that day at Kevill’s lab. 
“Thanks for babysitting the little squirt,” said Brian. “And help yourself to drinks and food.”
“All right, Brian. You have fun tonight.”
Something registered in Brian’s mind that things were just a little different for Ms. Baker, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. A new hairdo? A new outfit? She looked kind of tired, wiped out, really, with darkness under her eyes. But Brian would take a zombie tonight to get away from Wil for awhile . . . and closer to Amber.
He had strongly thought about just having Amber come over or calling everything off, though. After his earlier discovery of Kevill’s project, Brian felt more unsafe about things than ever; he felt more so for his son. But locked doors and a patrolled campus. Plus, Mary was solid. Just a call and few minutes away. Wilson would be fine.
They talked a bit more about Brian’s school and what Wilson had been up to lately before saying goodbye.
“I’ll be in at a good hour, Ms. Baker. I promise.”
Mary coughed, rubbed her eyes. “No worries. Wilson and I will have a good time. I have a new story to tell him tonight.”
“Great,” said Brian. “Are you feeling okay, Ms. Baker?”
“Just a little cold. I think it must be going around. Some in my quilting club have it, too.” 
Brian thought that he didn’t want himself or Wilson sick, but it was too late to change his mind on the babysitter offer now. He looked past Mary and saw a frowning, pajama-clad Wilson standing in the background.
“And you be a good boy tonight, okay, guy?”
“Okay,” Wilson said with a hint of mischief in his voice.
“Ms. Baker doesn’t need any trouble, all right? Okay? Well, we’ll see you guys later.” Brian headed out the door, again having second thoughts but still going ahead and leaving his son and the babysitter alone.
“Well, Wilson, what do you want to do tonight?” Wilson was already dressed in his pajamas, a cotton racecar design with long-sleeves and long legs.
He studied Mary for a moment and said, “You have the same necklace as that other girl.”
Mary looked down and ran the pendant through her fingers. “Oh, this? Well, what an observant boy you are, Wilson. What other girl are you talking about?”
“My dad’s girlfriend.”
“You mean Amber, the one he is seeing tonight?”
“Hmmm. Well, isn’t that a coincidence?” Mary thought about the day’s events, the pendants that had been given out by Daka earlier at Dr. Fratameier’s house. Amber, she thought, must be one of them. How interesting. She could feel a connection to the girl, a tiny pull of individual character in her head.
“Why do you have the same necklace?”
“Why? Oh, because it is a very popular necklace, Wilson. Very popular.” She took it off and gave it to Wilson to see more closely. “Let me tell you about this necklace, okay?”
And Mary led Wilson to his bedroom for her story.

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