The Torus Project

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

Chapter 18 (v.1)

Submitted: February 10, 2011

Reads: 52

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Submitted: February 10, 2011

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Chapter 18
1:47 a.m., Sunday
Jackie pulled to a stop in the same parking lot in which Brian had been arrested not three hours prior. A breeze had picked up, the sky dark, like the moon had been pushed away. Brian felt vacant, the night echoing a fear of loss he didn’t want to acknowledge.
He jumped out of the car, looking up at his apartment for any lights. Darkness. The sign only panicked him further, a building panic that had not subsided during his brief incarceration. Did she take Wilson away? During the police questioning and determining he wasn’t stoned or drunk, he had thought about only two people—Wilson and Amber. 
What was his so-called girlfriend into, anyway? Was she really some government operative instead of the coy student she pretended to be? And Ms. Baker? How had they gotten to her? And why? What was the connection? And who were “they” anyway?
Brian’s mind raced. His heart raced. Now, stepping up to his apartment door, he half-expected Amber and that dark man, Daka, to be there, smiling, wanting to give him another “present”. Wilson!
The door was locked. He fumbled with his keys, hearing Jackie behind him, worried, breathing hard. 
A light came on. The lock unlatched. And Ms. Baker stood there, eyes half-shut, worry on her face. Brian noticed little of her mood, though, and focused instinctively on her neck. There. The pendant. Figure eight. Silver. The sight of it froze him at the door.
“Brian, what is the matter? What has gotten into you? The police?” Ms. Baker stepped back, revealing a frowning Wilson in his pajamas behind her. Brian knew when his boy was scared, unsure.
The sight of him propelled Brian through the door. “Wil! Are you all right? Ms. Baker didn’t do anything to you?”“Huh?” the boy said in surprise.
“What?” said Ms. Baker. “What are you talking about, Brian? I would never hurt your son!”
Brian, in his frenzy, turned on the babysitter. “Then tell me about this!” he said, stabbing at Ms. Baker’s necklace and holding the pendant in his hand.
“Wh . . . What?” Her eyebrows raised in shock. She backed away from Brian toward the door, bumping into Jackie. “It’s just a necklace, boy. Just a necklace!”
Brian approached a scared-looking Wilson and examined him. Other than showing signs of sleepiness and fear, his son showed nothing to be concerned about. Did she comb his hair?
“I’m leaving!” said Ms. Baker. Brian noticed her blood-shot eyes in the light, the dark rings under them. “You’re . . . you’re scaring me, Brian! Jackie called and said you had run away from the police. And I’ve been staying up worried for you. Truly I have! And now . . . now you accuse me of hurting your son. Forget about my payment. I’m leaving!”
She grabbed her purse from the kitchen counter, searching for her car keys.
Brian, while feeling guilty at his actions, still questioned Ms. Baker as she exited to the apartment landing. “Why do you have the same necklace as my friends, huh? Why?”Mouth puckered, Ms. Baker looked down at her necklace and back up at Brian. “I don’t know,” she said slowly and then turned and shuffled down to her car.
Brian let her go, still more worried about Wilson than about making another scene in his neighborhood parking lot. He went back to his son and picked him up.
“Tell me again, Wil. What did you and Ms. Baker do? Did she give you anything strange to drink or eat?”
“No, Dad.”
Jackie came in and closed the door, scanning the place for any hidden surprises.
“Did anyone else come over? Any strange people?” continued Brian.
“No, Dad . . . Why did you get in trouble, Dad?”
The question hit Brian like an uppercut. His guilt doubled. Maybe I’ve been wrong about the whole thing? Maybe I’ve totally overreacted.
“I was worried about you and went too fast down the street in my car. That’s all, Wil. That’s all.” He stroked his son’s combed hair, a little too hard, and hugged him close.
“Well, I guess I’ll go, too, Bri.”
Brian whirled Wilson in his arms. “Jackie, you haven’t told me. You saw the necklace. Wasn’t it the same as Amber’s?”
“I think so, Brian. But I can’t be sure.” Jackie stared at her sandals. “It’s been awhile since I’ve even seen Amber.” Brian set Wilson down. “Wilson, go to bed. I’ll see you to sleep in few minutes.” Not arguing for once, the boy walked straight to his room, in the confusion not mentioning his knowledge of Amber’s necklace matching Ms. Baker’s.
“Believe me, Jack. They’re the same.”
Jackie halfway turned away from her friend, her head still facing him. “And what if they are the same? So what? Maybe it’s a style we haven’t heard about. I don’t know, Brian. This whole thing is confusing. I just don’t know.”
Brian felt his only link to sanity was walking away from him. Something was wrong. He knew it! He just had to prove it.
“I’ll show you there’s more to it than style, Jackie. I’ll prove it. Just a little time, okay? Don’t give up on me.”
“Oh, I’m not giving up on you, guy.” She turned back toward him, her hand moving to straighten his hair. “I just need time myself to sort this stuff out in my head? I’ll call you tomorrow to check up, all right?”
“Okay,” he said, and before she got too far down the stairs, added, “Jackie. Just be careful . . . just be careful.”
“I will.” And she left Brian to be alone with his thoughts and attempt to calm down after a very stressful night.

#

At Kevill’s house, things had quieted down as well. With Daka and Josh gone to prepare upcoming inoculations, only Madalene and Kevill himself sat in his dimly lit living room.
“Quite a day, huh, dear?” He placed an arm around Madalene’s neck on the couch and squeezed with his thick hands. “Our first group catch. And our first escapee.”
“He won’t escape for long. You will get the little pest soon, huh?” Madalene had changed intosomething more comfortable, a red matched pajama set, soft and silky. Dark hair fell about her breasts.
“Hah! I like your style, dear. I like your style.” Kevill retrieved their beverages from the coffee table and gave one to Madalene. “Let’s make a toast. To the project.”
They clinked the crystal.
“A few difficulties were inevitable. But all goes smoothly, eh?”
“I guess so.” Madalene didn’t drink.
“You guess so? I know so. By this time next year, most the state will be on our side.” He smiled and sipped his wine.“It’s feasible,” he pressed his point. “No more big inoculations by then. No more monitoring of every specimen by us. No, with system improvements we’re soon to make, a host will only have to shake hands to deliver the nanoprobes. Sweat to glands. Hah! Just think! Business will never be the same!”
She gazed into her glass and twirled the contents. “I guess we’ll need to mass produce your pendants, Andy?” Madalene had never really understood the science behind the Torus Project. Her love for Andrew Kevill meant helping out where she could. But allowing people to choose whom they wanted to include in the project? She guessed it made sense because they could never monitor everyone eventually. She had just never thought of things on such a grand scale before. The prospects suddenly scared her. 
What about a sense of control? Andrew took her in once she came to America. He was her center of peace, a foundation. But this project. This project took him more and more away. Would he still focus on her needs a year, a month, even, from now? “Huh?” He looked at her, breaking his possible daydream of world change. “Oh. Well. We’ll just make sure a nice distributor and his staff of a hundred are ‘coaxed’ into the project, right?”
Kevill slouched down in the comfy sofa, his head titled back. He stared at the ceiling with a strange face, a fan above sending soft comfort to a hot night.
“Yes. Years from now, I will be known as the mystical father of it all. A world revolution unfolds before our very eyes, growing, growing, so small yet with such big implications. Minds blending. The world getting ever closer together—
“Look at this!” Kevill broke his trance and pushed a button on the TV’s remote, activating his CPU on the big screen. The same, spindly diagram that served as a centerpiece in his office back at the university popped up, its coils resembling a computer-generated model of a DNA molecule overlaid on a picture of a “map” of the universe.
“Isn’t it incredible how similar our DNA is to the Torus model?”
Madalene had seen the model before, the same form that dotted the necks now of over five inoculants. She didn’t answer her lover, only nodded and took a sip of her wine.
“Wrap a DNA strain about itself—as you actually find in our bodies—and the match is almost uncanny. A mini-universe. Inside!” They watched as the diagram shifted and twirled, its various colors coming out bold on the large flat-screen monitor.“This is the paradigm, Madalene! This is what I’m after! Too long is it taking us as a species to see the connection we have to the universe as a whole. Too long!” He shifted in his seat, his eyes growing larger as he turned to face his lover. “That’s why I had to speed it up, you see? With the beauty of genetic nanotechnology, we can now implant the meme directly into the pathways of a human host!”
“Yes, dear, I know.”
“But do you really?” He wiped sweat from his forehead. “Do you see the implications? With everyone connected, just like the Torus itself, who can predict the wonderful possibilities for our race! No more petty wars and greed! No more infantile, self-indulgent thoughts. We work together now.”
Madalene looked at him and saw, past the tiredness that rimmed his eyes, a fervor, a passion. It was what she had fallen for in this man, what she most feared. But some in the university had told her he had not always been like this. Once, he had been introverted, awkward even . . . before the project. 
“I love it when you get worked up.” She decided to push away the doubts and nuzzle closer to her mate.
“Ah, that boy! He’s kinking up the works!” Kevill clicked off the TV, tossing the remote to the floor.
“Andy?”
“I don’t have time for complications like this!”
Madalene straightened up. “I said I would spring the trap on our little pest.”
“Oh, I know, dear. I know. I appreciate your help, you know. But let’s allow the Reynolds boy an attempt first, okay?”
“Just relax,” Madalene said. “The boy is just a little inconvenience.” She stroked Kevill’s long, graying hair, scratching his scalp with her sharp, painted nails.
“Okay. Worrying about it coming together. That’s all.”
“It will, Mister Andy. It will. Now rest your head on my shoulder and go to sleep.”
#
Across town Brian Minor lay awake in bed, his son Wilson now fast asleep after some explaining from Dad about recent events. He had had to tell Wilson that no, he was not mad at Ms. Baker. Yes, he would see her again (though Brian actually doubted it). No, they were not in trouble with the police. Daddy just had to rush home and see if you were all right.
Wilson’s confusion subsided a little, allowing him to go to bed, but Brian’s confusion still raged inside. What have I done? How could I jeopardize our future, pulling a stunt like that? Never did I disobey a direct order while in the military. His seven-year career was exemplary. Heck, he would still probably be in the service if it weren’t for his wife’s accident pushing him away.
But now he was out. A Civvie. Plain-clothes. He had responsibilities. School and a boy to raise. That was all he really wanted—to make Wilson proud, to find a place in himself of surety so that he could bestow the same to his son.
And surety seemed lost. Who knows what the university would say when their campus police report his little “foul up” from this night? Would he be expelled? Suspended? What about his military aid money? What about Wilson’s discounted school and their campus apartment?
Everything flew in the air around his head. Everything seemed in disarray, unknown, a cloud. Okay, so he had seen the same pendant on Amber and Mike and Ms. Baker. Like Jackie said, so what? Maybe it was a fashion he didn’t know about. He sure wasn’t as hip as Mike nor as into modern fads as Amber seemed to be. But Ms. Baker? Some strange present from her grandchild?
The face of Dr. Kevill still haunted him as well. Just last night he had seen his professor, there, on Dr. Uhland’s home computer screen. And he didn’t doubt both doctors researched for the government on nanotechnology. Did he? And he had seen that Daka man in the lab when he and Carol had broken in. Right? Too fast. Everything was happening too fast.
And then Brian remembered Dr. Kevill some more, Dr. Kevill and his summer assignment. The three-pound ultimatum, wasn’t it? The homework that, maybe, had started this whole thing? And, really, it hadn’t been that long ago—just a few days—that the spring semester wrapped up. Dissect a belief. Ask yourself where it comes from, why you have it. He’d gone to Dr. Kevill’s office not once but twice to ask him more about the homework, and both times he had come away with nothing. Both times he had come away feeling unfulfilled.
Pieces . . . connections. Things had to fit together. Like his job in the military repairing airplanes, replacing parts, cleaning and checking for safety.This whole mess with his friends and his professor had to fit together somehow. His three-pound universe spun to put things right.
One thing he did know. He had to be careful. He was in the middle of something now. He just knew it. No more waltzing down the sidewalk, whistling as he went. No more playing with Wilson in the park? His belief was that the powers that be didn’t want him to know something. Was it something sinister? Or just plain research, top-secret and hush-hush?
Brian believed he needed to confront Mike, tomorrow if possible. He would call his friend and ask him directly about the necklace and how he got it. If Mike had turned, then he wouldn’t get a straight answer. But at least he would try.
He had to call Amber, too. The way he had run out on her . . . after they had had such a good time. Maybe she was just giving him an innocent present. Guilt invaded his beliefs, further clouding the scenario. But what if she had been just using him all the time? A play toy to lure into her experiments?“Deep breathes. Try to relax,” Brian told himself. He got up and checked again to see if the front door and windows were locked. He was edgy and didn’t trust the same police that pulled him over earlier to stop a possible break-in while he and Wilson were asleep.
He was just about to give up and hit slumber when the soft tweak of his cell phone could be heard from the living room.


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