The Torus Project

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

Chapter 19 (v.1)

Submitted: February 10, 2011

Reads: 83

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Submitted: February 10, 2011

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A A A

Chapter 19
2:32 a.m., Sunday
The moon filtered into his apartment window, the night cold despite its humidity. It felt lonely and bleak. Brian looked at his cell’s caller I.D., but it read “unavailable”. Who would be calling so late? He answered the phone.
“Brian. It’s me.” 
The voice he least expected to hear. Amber. Brian felt so confused about her his voice caught.
“Hello,” he rasped.
Her voice was strained. “We need to talk.”
“Amber, I don’t know. I don’t know what to say.”
“Let me come over,” she said. “I promise no boxy presents. No strings attached.”
“But, Amber, your necklace. It’s the same as Mike’s, even my babysitter’s, for God’s sake! Tell me what’s going on! Am I just going crazy?”
A pause on the other end.
“No, Brian, you’re not.” A whisper so that he could hardly hear. “It’s hard to explain over the phone.”
He planted himself on his couch. “I saw your necklace and started thinking about all the shit that’s happened lately, and then I remembered Wilson. Wilson was with someone who had the same necklace!”
“Yes, I know.”
“You know? Then tell me! Are you . . . you just using me, Amber? Am I just part of an experiment?”
“Not now. Not now. Can I come over?” She sounded scared.
“Okay.” He disconnected the call without saying another word. Could he trust her? What was he thinking? She could be bringing a trap for all he knew. The world no longer felt consistent to him. Before, he would wake up and know pretty much where things lay: Wilson went to school, he went to school. The car needed gas, the bills had to be paid. He studied and thought about things, but those psychological ideas didn’t overwhelm his everyday existence. Up until now, ideas were merely thought projects and means to better grades in his classes. He had originally chosen psychology, he knew, to figure things out in his own life, to make sense of his wife’s death. But those first intentions had leveled out over time to where he went into a pattern of living. Had he really been living in some sort of denial? Had his student persona merely become a ruse to avoid himself?
That thought frightened Brian. It made his head hurt. 
“I guess I just wanted to get by,” he mumbled to himself in the bathroom, straightening his hair for Amber’s imminent arrival. “I guess I didn’t think.”
Now . . . Now, Brian didn’t know. Could he really make it as a single dad anymore? What was going on? He allowed himself to open up a little for the first time with someone else, and look what happened. He found himself in the middle of a government conspiracy.
Whom could he trust? Could he even trust himself, with his weakness and need to connect with another, to take care of himself?
“Just how damn needy am I?” he said, scrunching up his face in the mirror and clenching a fist in frustration.
A soft knock at the door.
Do I really want to let her back in?
Brian patted out a wrinkle in his t-shirt and approached the door. He noticed for the first time he only wore sleeping shorts and a shirt. He didn’t care.
“Amber?”
“Yes, Brian, it’s me.”
He looked through the peephole and saw her face in the soft light, a worried look. She turned back as if checking for others. Brian opened the door. She stood there, hesitant. He first noticed the necklace, still hanging about her neck. Her clothes were the same as earlier that evening. Only her countenance had changed.
“Come in,” he said, slowly opening the door. “Wil’s asleep.”
“Sure. Thanks.”
 
#
 
A persistent beep woke Dr. Kevill from his wine-induced sleep on the couch. He took up his cell and answered it.“Yeah. What is it?”
“Sorry to bother, sir,” Daka said in voice-only mode. “We’re still at the lab. Seems our friend Amber has made a late-night visit.”
“Yes?”
“She’s at the Brian boy’s place.”
“How do you know?”
“The surveillance I set up earlier.”
“Oh, yes.” Kevill wiped his eyes and moved out from under Madalene’s head on his shoulders. “I’ll switch on my computer. Just a moment.”
He found the remote and turned on the living room’s flat-screen monitor.
“Okay, link me through. Josh, is she live?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve got her now.”
Kevill’s screen filled with a picture of Brian’s apartment door. Some squelching noises and then audio came through, voices of Brian and Amber through her pendant microphone.“What’s going on?” said Madalene, groaning awake and stretching like a cat.
“Oh, just a little late night eavesdropping, dear. Listen.”
#
“So what do you have to say?” Brian came across combative. She showed him empty hands to cross out another “present”.
“Look, Brian, I know you’re confused. So am I.” She stood stiff after closing the door, her face drawn, tight.
“Are you?” he whispered, whirled around, and sat on the couch. “What are you confused about?”
“What I’m supposed to do with you now.” She followed Brian and sat down beside him.
“Me? What do mean?”
Her eyes batted. She saw Brian’s struggle to rectify his desire and his fear. “Brian, I guess you know. I’m not exactly who you think I am.”
“You’ve got that right. Let’s start with the necklaces, shall we?” Hurt, she thought. I must be gentle.
“Sure.” Amber looked down at her pendant and fell silent for a few seconds, her eyes closed. The internal wrestling raged inside her. She needed Brian; she felt so strongly about him. But should she just bring him into Kevill’s fold? The feelings fought the drive to do as she had been told. The thoughts fought other thoughts to spread her abilities to everyone she knew. 
“What’s the matter?” Brian turned toward her on the couch.
“I just wanted to make sure no one was listening in.”“Listening in? You mean through your necklace or something?” Brian shot a glance back toward Wilson’s room, worried he had spoken too loud. “Who would be doing that, Amber?”
“Kevill.”
“Doctor Kevill? My psychology professor?” Brian jerked back.
Biting her lip, Amber said, “He’s a lot more than just a psychology professor, Brian. He’s . . . ah . . . experimenting. On people. On me.” She couldn’t believe she was saying this. The secret was sacrosanct. The project was only known by those with the gift! But her feelings toward this man were, somehow, overriding the programming.
“What? What’s he done to you? Is he really listening in?” Brian started to get up. “Can’t you just get rid of that pendant?”
She ignored his last question, responding to the previous one. “I . . . I believe so. There’s some interference, though.” She pressed slender fingers to temples, pain on her face. “I must tell you quick. Oh, you don’t know how hard this is, telling you what I am.” 
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before staring back at Brian.
“I’m still a student, Brian,” Amber spouted. “But I’m more than your regular girl. I’m part machine, you could say.”“Part machine? You mean like an android or something?” His voice raised, Brian turned to see if he had disturbed Wilson.
“No. It’s actually in my head. The nanoprobes, nanotechnology.” She continued massaging her temples, trying to make the internal messages go away . . . if only for a minute or so. “Kevill and . . . and . . . his helpers implanted thousands of nano-devices in my brain. They’re biologically based, so they mimic my natural brain chemicals. . . . But they’re also computers, you see. I see things differently than I did before. The mini-computers inside me plant a whole new picture of reality and how I’m a part of it.”
Smiling, she put down her hands and concentrated on Brian. “It’s . . . it’s really quite wonderful, Brian. I so much want you to feel what I feel, to be with me in a whole new way.”
Again, Brian jerked. “Your brain is really a computer?” “Yeah, you could say that. My father’s fault, I guess. He started the whole thing.” The thought of her dad brought a wall down, closing Amber’s feelings. She stood up, away from Brian on the couch, pacing the room.
“What do you mean?”
“My father did the first research on this kind of stuff before he . . . he died about a year ago. Kevill was his assistant, you see. Then he took over, but he started putting his own agenda into the project, interjecting a mathematical conception of the universe into each nano-computer.” Amber’s face contorted. She was having difficulty spitting out the words. “But not just mathematics. A whole worldview. A paradigm of how to believe, feel, act. 
“He changed. He changed it all. I was his first subject. A surprise, really, but I’ve adapted.”
“A conception of the universe? Why? What does Kevill want to accomplish?”
Amber opened her mouth, about to answer, when she covered her face with her hands in evident pain, scratching a bit at her forehead and eyes.
“Amber? Amber, what’s the matter?” Brian got up and placed a hand on her back.
Her face contorted. “They’ve found me out, Brian. They’re telling me to leave, or the pain will increase!”
“Who? Kevill? Where is he?” Brian turned, ready to storm the door and take on any intruders.
“I don’t know!” Amber pushed at her the temples. “Stop! Okay, I’ll leave!”
Head in hands, she headed toward the door. “Daddy?” Brian looked over and saw Wilson, rubbing his eyes, standing close to his bedroom door.
Brian went over and patted his son on the back, quickly spinning him around. “Wil, guy, go back to bed. It’s okay. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Amber had opened the front door and was walking away.“Wait, Amber, wait!”
Overwhelming. The thoughts overwhelmed her. “I . . . I can’t, Brian. I must go. I’ve . . . I’ve said too much. I have to go.”
“You can’t control your own brain, Amber? You can’t fight?”
“No, no. You don’t understand. They . . . have a direct link. They . . . programmed the computers.”
Brian put a hand on Amber’s shoulder and took a last look in her eyes. There he saw terrible confusion and pain.  “Okay. I’ll call you. Or call me. I want to know.”
“All right,” Amber stammered. She gave him a last, pained look and trotted to the parking lot and her car.
 
#
 
“Damn,” said Brian under his breath as he watched Amber drive away. “Damn, damn, damn!”
He didn’t want to see her go like this. Her pain. Her risk in coming and telling the truth. What was she going through to tell it, to reach out past the . . . the conditioning inside her head? Brian would have given almost anything to stop the madness that now seemed to envelope his life.
And he knew that Amber really did want to be with him but simply couldn’t. He knew that she wasn’t under control of her own faculties, that Kevill or whoever pulled the strings. That, he felt very strongly, had to stop.
He closed and locked his apartment door after seeing Amber’s car drive off. I bet my neighbors will surely avoid me after this night, he thought.
Brian went to Wilson, still awake, lying in his bed.
“Who was that, Daddy?”
“My friend Amber, guy. She had to tell me some things.”
“Oh.”
“Let’s go to sleep. We’ll get pancakes tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay.”
And Brian slept with Wilson for a few hours until his son was sound asleep again. Brian himself didn’t get much rest, though. He was too worried. He thought about calling Jackie to come watch Wilson while he followed Amber back to her apartment to see if everything was okay. But he didn’t want to leave Wil again tonight, not so soon. Not ever? He thought about what Amber had said, her brain as a computer. That meant Mike and probably Ms. Baker were the same, now transformed, implanted with some small devices that made them think and act differently. What was he going to do?
 
#
 
The pain in Amber’s head subsided soon after leaving Brian’s apartment, but the voices didn’t.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, my dear?” It was Kevill, an angry Kevill, fully in control and dominating, voice resonating inside Amber’s skull.
“He’s my friend. I had to—”
“You had to nothing! What? Do you want to spoil the whole project? Yes, I have taken the technology to whole new levels than your father. I owe a lot to the man. But, if you remember, my dear, you came to me last year wanting a part of the project for yourself. Right?”
“I was grieving. You took advantage of me!”
“I took you in, girl. No family. You needed me!”
She started to cry. “I didn’t know it would be like this! It’s all against people’s will! I’m not your slave!”
Kevill evened his tone, lowered it. “It’s for the best, Amber. It’s all for the best. Now, I want you to drive home, and Daka will pick you up. You need some direction, that’s all. This Brian boy’s got you all confused about our goals!”
Amber quieted down a bit, sobbing. She felt very alone, isolated, with few options. “I’m . . . I’m sorry, Doctor Kevill. I have such strong feelings for him. I wanted him on our side. I almost had him!”
“I understand,” soothed Kevill. “Just go home and wait for Daka.”
“So I’m your prisoner now?”
“No, no, dear. Just a . . . guest, until we figure things out on where to go from here, okay?”
She didn’t answer.
“Wait for Daka. He’ll be there momentarily. Kevill out.”He pushed a button on his cell, transferring the connection. “Josh, you there?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Looks like we’ll need to go up further on her controls again. Make that happen. Is Daka on his way to escort the girl back to my place?”
“On his way.”
“Good.” Kevill let out a deep sigh. “Ah, love. Seems the drive for companionship is a strong one here. Challenging our controls a bit. We need to work on that tomorrow, okay?” “Already monitoring her brain activity, sir.”
“Yes, and review her stats for the past day or so. We need to see what happened here exactly so it doesn’t happen again. I don’t understand how she could be taxing the parameters like she did just now.”
“Right.”
Kevill yawned and smoothed out Madalene’s hair next to him on the couch. “But you can do that later, Josh. Get some sleep. We have a big step tomorrow. A big catch. We need to be ready. Kevill out.”
Madalene purred sleepily next to Kevill. 
“So she’s coming here?” The question’s tone raised as if she was none too happy with the idea.
“Only for a short time. The spare bedroom should suffice.”
“How do you know she won’t try to escape?”
“Oh, she’ll be drugged until we can figure out the internal constraints.”
“Uh, huh.” Madalene still didn’t sound too sure.
“Don’t worry, my dear,” said Kevill, getting off the couch, stretching out a hand to pull his lover up from her cozy perch. “Maybe this will allow you to explore your motherly side.”
She shot him a nasty glance and walked away toward the bedroom, leaving Kevill alone.
“Got to put a cap on this Brian fellow,” he said to himself, going to the kitchen and pouring some more wine. 
He sat back down on the couch in silence for a few minutes, periodically scratching his head.
Finally, he slugged down the wine and said out loud, “I’ve got to trust the universe on this. It’ll bring things to a nice conclusion. Yes, it will.”
And Kevill displayed his computer again on the TV, the same revolving picture of space and DNA, colors intertwined with mathematically precise lines and shapes. He stared at it with a gleam in his eye while waiting for Amber and Daka to arrive.


© Copyright 2019 jconkin. All rights reserved.

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