The Torus Project

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

Chapter 16 (v.1)

Submitted: February 10, 2011

Reads: 52

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Submitted: February 10, 2011

A A A

A A A

Chapter 16
6:30 p.m., Saturday
Brian, dressed in blue jeans and a green, short-sleeved dress shirt, arrived at Amber’s apartment after stopping off first to buy her some fresh sunflowers.
“How sweet!” she said, taking the bunch and giving them a whiff. “I love this kind of flower!” Amber, herself dressed in blue jeans, a blue blouse, and sandals, turned to allow her date inside.
Even though a one bedroom, her apartment outsized Brian’s, with front door opening to an entryway, which, in turn, opened up into a spacious living room that was bordered by a large kitchen/dining area. A hallway led to the bath and bedroom. The decorations were a little different than Brian had expected as well. Money must have come to her somehow, he thought. A flat screen, high-definition TV flanked one wall across from a cushy-looking leather couch. The room also had a few pictures of more modern-looking artwork, with abstract shapes blending with colors. Tall, bendable halogen lamps provided more than enough light for the room. And a glass-topped coffee table held a few, large books, one titled “Top Ten Philosophies”.
“Wow, Amber, nice place,” Brian said, making sure he wiped his black-leather shoes on her welcome mat before proceeding. “It’s home,” she said. “So what have you got planned for us this evening?” She took the flowers to the kitchen area and retrieved a large, purple vase from a cabinet, filling it with water.
“Well, I’m kinda boring. Dinner first, I guess. Do you like Mexican?”
“Sure.”
“Then maybe some dancing or a movie or something. Your pick. I told Ms. Baker, my babysitter, though, that I wouldn’t be out too late, ya know.”
“That’s fine,” Amber said. “Or how ‘bout dinner and just a simple walk by the lake? We could come back here for some dessert. I’ve got a killer cheese cake in the fridge.”
“Oh, okay.” Catching himself staring at Amber’s neck and back, Brian turned and looked around the living room while she finished pruning and situating her flowers. On the fireplace mantle, he noticed a picture of Amber with an older man, both smiling. “Your dad?”
“Yeah,” Amber replied, setting the vase on the kitchen table and moving closer to Brian. She nudged against him.
“You guys look happy there.”
“We were. It was taken a few months before he died.” Amber lovingly picked up the picture, wiping it off with the back of her hand.
“I know how it is to lose someone,” said Brian.
“Uh, huh. Sometimes it hurts. I’m just glad he got to know me as an adult before—”
“Yeah,” he broke in. Brian didn’t quite know what to say. He felt the connection—they both had lost people close to them. He wanted to reach out to Amber’s hurt. He wanted her to reach out to his own hollow feelings when he thought about Rebecca.
Amber turned to Brian, her eyes sad at first then quickly happy again. “Ready?” she said.
“Sure.”
 
#
 
“Do you think we’ve bitten off too much?”
Kevill, Josh, and Daka sat in Kevill’s home dining area around a large, oak table fit to seat nine.
“No, sir,” said Josh between bites of a Chinese smorgasbord the trio were having. “All are in parameters. The monitoring equipment is running smoothly. And even upcoming inoculations are ready.”
“Good. Daka, are you ready for that venture tomorrow?”
“An easy job, Doctor Kevill.” The African comfortably rested his elbows on the table and drank a large glass of water. 
“Nothing like your old jobs of infiltrating a barracks and planting a bomb or something, eh?” Josh said, looking to Kevill as if to say “This man may still be too dangerous for our cause.”
“I believe it, Daka,” said Kevill, shooting Josh a uneasy look. “I believe it. Be ready tonight, too, when that Brian kid goes down. Amber might need some backup.”
“Right.”
“And, Josh,” Kevill slurped a noodle through his lips, “I want both to be instantly at point two – zero, okay?”
“Sure.”
“We don’t need to be pandering around.”
“Yes, sir. I’ve already assimilated nanite clusters for about ten more inoculations when you’re ready.”
“Excellent! What a wonderful summer this is proving to be!”They heard the front door open and shut. 
Kevill shouted, “Come in, Madalene. You’re just in time to view the night’s events!”
Madalene entered carrying a store-baked pie and bottle of wine. She gave Kevill a peck on his balding skull. “Okay, my sweet. Hello, Josh. Hello, Daka.”
The two mumbled their greetings to Kevill’s woman, who wore a striking red dress, her hair done up like she had recently been to a salon.
“Thought I’d bring you men something to digest during your hard work.”
“Thank you, my dear,” Kevill said, getting up to peck Madalene on the cheek. “Have some food?”
“That’s okay,” she said, opening and cutting the pie with a knife. “I’ve already eaten.”
The men cleared a place for Josh’s laptop in the table’s center.
“These are readings from Amber,” Josh directed once the computer was up. “Her pendant will provide a listening device, too, when activated prior to inoculation.” He poked a few more keys to bring up a previously taken still picture of Amber to coincide with her readings.
“A little jumpy tonight, isn’t she?” said Kevill.
“You mean her heart rate?” Josh took a piece of pie from Madalene with raised eyebrows. “But what would you expect? She’s just about to transform her new boyfriend into part cyborg.”
“And what is this reading?” said Daka, playing dumb for Madalene. He refused pie with a shake of his hand, causing her to frown.
“We have heart rate, blood pressure, and brain wave activity.  The bar you refer to is a measure of nanite activity in relation to immune response.” He enlarged the reading on the laptop screen. “Except for some nervousness, seems our Amber is taking the foreign creatures in stride right now.”
“And you can introduce thoughts and images from this computer?” This time Madalene was taking more interest. She leaned over, revealing a marked amount of cleavage to the men sitting down.
“Exactly. The nanoprobes have aligned themselves to various points in her central nervous system. For new messages and imagery, all I have to do is activate the nanite in that particular area.”
“Amazing!” said Madalene, straightening back up. “And our Amber’s father perfected the procedure?” She turned to Kevill, knowing the fact was a bit of sore spot for him.
“Perfected is such beautiful term, isn’t it?” he replied. He motioned for Madalene to come closer to him. “But I’d have to say only started the procedure for the late Doctor Hays. We are perfecting it now through the wonders of our inoculations, right?”
“Oh, but of course, Andrew. My words were wrong,” she rolled her Rs, sitting on his lap. But Kevill knew she had brought up Hays on purpose, just to sneak under his skin for a moment. Madalene was like that, a femme fatal if he wasn’t careful.
“We’ve taken Doctor Hays’ projections and put them to use. Protein dynamics, DNA and organic computers, nano-particle production—”
“Josh uses big words to say that our system, even more than what the D-O-D knows, is able to infiltrate a human host, replicate itself, and augment existing primary sensory data that the host is using.”
“You mean those little bugs can build copies of themselves?” said Madalene. She liked the feel of three men explaining something to her.
“Yep,” Josh said, sounding smug. “In essence, when we inoculate, we also build a human computer from the inside out. That’s why they always get sick afterward. Their immune systems see the nanites as invaders at first. Only after they seamlessly unite with existing biological material does the host immune system let go its need to fight off what we have introduced.”
“A truly marvelous apparatus,” said Kevill. He made for the pie and motioned Daka to open up the bottle red wine. “I would inoculate all of you if I didn’t know you were already in the same boat as the memes we introduce to new host minds.”
Daka coughed. “Memes, sir?”
“Ideas, Daka, ideas.” He looked at Josh with a smile. “Memes are paradigms, like a hot toy at Christmas time. No one knows about it, and then everyone knows about it and wants it, too. Our memes, though, are so much more than toys.” He gestured his arms high and worked them into a circle. “Our memes are worldviews, ways of perceiving reality. That’s why these inoculations are so important. Once done, there’s no turning back. Once done, the host is equipped with such a larger view of the universe and his fellow man. No more petty wars and limited religions. This machine is for keeps, our project a universal one to put man on a new plateau.”
A tiny beep rang from Josh’s laptop.
“Looks like Miss George is waking up, sir. Should we send Daka to bring her back here?”
“Yes. I guess we’d better. We wouldn’t want her getting hysterical on us or anything. Daka, you don’t mind taming the wild beast?” He patted Daka, who had finished opening the wine, and gave him a smile.
“No, sir. My pleasure.” The African bowed slightly. “And what should I tell Miss George if she is adamant about going to the police?”
“Oh, let her if she wants. What is she going to tell them? That we implanted her with nano-computers? You might give her Mary Baker’s contact, though. They both have pendants. Let them talk.”
“Okay.”
“And tune into the Brian and Amber show when you have the chance. We’ll be monitoring Miss Hays’ progress from here.”
“Very good, Doctor Kevill. Until tomorrow.”
Daka’s soft sandals squeaked as he left the remaining three to stare at Josh’s laptop.
“Josh, this screen is too small for such good entertainment. Plus, this table is no place to relax. Can you hook the link to my big screen?”
“Yes, sir. Just give me a few moments.”
Madalene and Kevill retired to the living room, the former nestling up to her partner over a glass of the wine she had brought.
“Tell me, Josh. Just how did we get that virus today? I thought we had the best protection software.”
Josh had taken his laptop behind Kevill’s large television and was hooking the two together. “A mystery, sir, a mystery. One of lab assistants upstairs must have brought in an outside bug. Bothers me, though, how it was tagged to my password.”
“That’s not good. Didn’t you install a powerful firewall to prevent such things?” Kevill casually stroked Madalene’s hair, took a sip of her offered wine.
“Yes. That’s what I don’t understand. No one has access except for you, me, and, now, Daka.” Josh turned on the big TV across from Kevill and Madalene and began to program it for reception.
“Not meaning to pry, but how close an eye did you keep on that girl you brought once for the protein exhibit?”
“Protein exhibit?” Josh paused, thinking about a time he had brought Carol inside after they had had a few drinks at his house. “Uhm, not sure.”
Kevill sat up and showed Josh he had now taken more of a casual interest in the conversation.
“We looked at a few tunneling procedures they were doing. That’s all.”
“That’s all, eh?”
Josh knew that Kevill had him. He knew that Carol was quite capable of witnessing his access at the time. “I think we may need to change the alarm code.”
“Yes,” said Kevill. “I think we do, as well as the entry lock. And I think we need to suspend any extra-curricular activities in the lab. All right?”
“The bitch,” Josh whispered. “No wonder it was coded to me. She hacked the system!”
“We women can be cunning, no, Doctor Uhland?” said Madalene, who slowly stroked Kevill’s back with her long nails.“At least everything is well now, though the lab personnel upstairs won’t be happy about changing their keys,” said Kevill, frowning. “Let’s turn our attentions to the show at present. Are we ready, doctor?”
“Yes, sir. Here we go.”
 
#
 
“Nice night,” said Brian. He and Amber had finished their dinner and now parked next to a near-by lake to take in the sunset and breeze across the water. “Reminds me of the fishing trips I used to go on with my dad back in Nebraska. We’d hit the water about this time of day to get some of the catfish and bass that inevitably came up closer to the top as the water cooled.”
“You close to your folks?” said Amber, who got out of the car and approached the bank. A soft breeze lapped the waters into the shore.
“Eh, not really, I guess. Definitely not close enough geographically for their tastes. I’ve only seen them a few times in the past year—once when they visited last fall and once when Wilson and I visited the house during Christmas. We had a good time. Until mom started prodding me to transfer to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, that is.”
Amber undid her shoelaces and removed her socks and shoes for a foot-dip in the lake’s waters.
“So why don’t you transfer to be closer to your family?” she said.
“Oh, because I like it here, I guess. I have some friends. Wilson has some friends. And we’re both set in our little areas of lifestyle.”
“Like?”
“Like school and the neighborhood we live in. Wilson needs a steady and sure place to grow, I think. I want to give him that.”
“So you’re both happy here?” Brian had followed to discard his own socks and shoes for a dip. The breeze felt good. Brian felt at ease, forgetting temporarily the events of recent days. No secret government project. No professor gone bad. Just a guy and girl. Talking. Simple. Stress free.
“It really isn’t that bad here.”
“I sense some reluctance, though,” said Amber. Brian had grown used to her directness, an effect of being a philosophy major, he guessed.
“Well,” Brian continued, knowing he was about to enter another touchy-feely conversation with Amber. How does she seem to so easily bring stuff out in me? “It’s the place. It’s rather my place. I’m not so sure about the future—after school and all—for Wilson and myself.”
“Oh. I hear ya there.” Amber took a cute foot out of the water and splashed with it.
“So what do you want to do after school?”
“Yep. Philosophy majors aren’t exactly the biggest commodities in the workplace. I guess I’ll go on and get my masters, my doctorate even. That way I can push the inevitable off a good six to eight years.” 
She giggled a little at that, a refreshing laugh that made Brian feel good himself. Something about Amber refreshed him in general. Her outlook. Their similarities about losing those close to them. More and more, he felt he could see this woman for a long time to come. Guilt pangs still hung in Brian’s mind—like he was cheating, not grieving enough—but the moment felt right.
“I know psych majors need advanced degrees just to compete. If I want to do research, I know I’ll need a doctorate. But that means money, something the military only goes so far in providing.”
Amber turned toward him, sending a small splash his way. “You’re a nice mix, Brian.”
“How’s that?”
“You have a rough, military background, with all the determination and responsibility that means—plus you have this sensitive side. You don’t mind talking about what’s on your mind. You take care of a kid, for goodness sake. You major in psychology, too.”
Brian blushed a little. “Thanks.”
“You deserve a lot of credit.”
“I guess so.” But I can’t help thinking something’s missing in my life, he thought. A hole to be filled.
“No guessing about it.” She reached down to feel the water. “Hey, what do you say to some cheesecake?”
“Excellent.”
They put their shoes back on and got back in Brian’s car.
 
#
 
“Is she going to do it or not?” asked Madalene at Kevill’s place. “I don’t know about you men, but I think she’s going soft on your next subject.”
“Give her a little more time,” said Kevill, who continued to sip on Madalene’s wine but was getting more and more anxious listening to Brian and Amber’s conversations. “She’s luring the fly into the spider’s web.”
“I guess. All this adolescent talk, though, is boring me.”
Josh and Kevill looked at Madalene as if to say “then leave” but didn’t dare say it to her face. They both knew she could have a temper when she wanted.
 
#
 
Amber and Brian arrived back at her place around 10 p.m. With Brian sitting in the living room, Amber served the cheesecake as they sat on the couch.
“Very good,” said Brian.
“Thanks. It’s made from a box!”
“Not from scratch, eh?”
Amber turned toward Brian abruptly, her face one of deep interest. “Brian, what’s your idea of God?”
“What?”
“What do you think God is?”
“Boy, that’s coming out of the blue, isn’t it?”
“Oh, I’m a philosophy major, if you remember. It’s my duty to ask such questions.” She spooned a mouthful of dessert and puckered up, a cute, assured pucker.
“God. I don’t know. God is the sum of everything, I guess. As a kid, I used to believe God was some guy in heaven looking down on us, but I guess I’ve grown out of that picture.” He scratched his head. “Maybe God is love.”
“I like that answer. Brian, I have gift for you.” She stared at him and reached out to hold his hand. She knew Brian was the one with whom she wanted to share her newfound powers. She felt a sexual energy pass through her, a drive to make him one with the Torus. “Call it a gift of love, if you want. Just wait a moment.”
Amber went back to her bedroom and came out again holding a shiny mahogany box.
“What’s this?” asked Brian, getting up off the couch to receive the present.
“Just open it, and you’ll see.” Amber’s eyes were wide; her eyebrows rose as she waited for Brian to open her gift.
But something clicked in Brian’s head. He looked at the box. He looked at Amber and saw her necklace as if for the first time, its spiral-shaped pendant dangling from her neck. Recognition. He knew he’d seen it before, just that night, in fact, around his babysitter’s neck. And didn’t Mike have the same necklace on, too? His friend had tried to hide it yesterday afternoon at the bar, but Brian saw him take it out and show it to Amber even though the two thought he was too engrossed in his phone conversation with Jackie to notice. He had just remembered. Pieces and flashes. Memories. Beliefs.
Warning bells went off in Brian’s head. This isn’t right. Amber was acting too strange. A gift from God? And Mike. And the babysitter now at his apartment, watching the center of his world, Wilson?
“Sorry, Amber, but I have to go.” He turned toward the door, brushing the box away.
Amber’s face registered the surprise. “What?”
“I have to get back to Wilson. Sorry.” He walked toward the door.
“But I have present for you,” she pleaded. “Please. Before you leave!”
“Sorry, Amber. Things just aren’t right.” Brian left suddenly, shooting a final, pained look over his shoulder at the girl he had thought would be the one.


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