The Torus Project

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

Chapter 24 (v.1)

Submitted: February 12, 2011

Reads: 51

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Submitted: February 12, 2011



Chapter 24
1:07 p.m., Monday
“He’s here.” From the upstairs lab, Josh talked via his cell to Kevill, who sat downstairs. Surrounding Josh were computer scientists, wearing white jackets mainly and mostly hovered over microscopes and tweaking machines for the university’s nanotech initiative. No beakers or flasks. Only flat-screen monitors and a few holo-projections that whirled with pictures in three dimensions.
“Well, introduce yourself, my boy!” said Kevill, who was dressed in a nice, long-sleeved shirt, khaki pants, and a tie. “It’s not often we get a visit from our esteemed president!” Josh, in his usual black jeans and black t-shirt, walked over to President Nelson, who had entered the lab past the entry office corridor with a one of his administrative staff, and outstretched his hand. Though nicely attired in a dark blue suit and red tie, Nelson looked tired and a bit glossy from some sweat. A smile was also plastered on his face in attempts to cover his discomfort.
“Josh Uhland, sir. I work with Doctor Kevill downstairs. If you will allow me?” He pointed to the security elevator located to the far corner of the lab, past the glassed-off “clean room,” which was now filled with technicians clothed head to toe in protective wear.
Doctor Uhland, isn’t it?” said the university’s president. “Department of Computing Science?”
“Yes, sir.”
“I remember you coming over from Germany. Last year, was it? Quite a catch if I recall.” He coughed once. “Excuse me. I was a little sick over the weekend.”
“Oh. I hope you are up to a tour. Doctor Kevill is expecting you downstairs.”
Still smiling, pretending his visit was just a casual invite to one of his university’s projects, Nelson scanned the room, nodding to some of the staff. He then turned to his own escort, a balding man of about forty, wearing a suit. “I’ll be fine, Brad. Go on back to the office. I’m sure doctors Kevill or Uhland here will be happy to drive me back after my visit.”
“Are you sure, sir?” said his colleague. “Or would you like for me to call Doctor Smith at Computing Science to tell him of your arrival here?”
Josh knew Dr. Smith to be the head of his department at the university. But, to his boss’ chagrin, even the top computer man on campus had not been allowed downstairs since he and Kevill’s project had begun.
“No, no. Smith is okay. I’ll call him when I get back,” said Nelson.
“Okay. Just remember you have a meeting at three o’clock with our new academic advisors.”
“Oh, right. I’ll be there. Don’t worry.” And Nelson turned his back on the assistant and joined Josh on his walk to the elevator. For once, Josh felt somewhat uncomfortable. He had not really worried about the other inoculations, but a university president. This was different. He half-expected to be fired at any moment.
“I hope your illness is not too bad, sir?” Josh said after placing his access card in the security panel.
Nelson took the bait. “Not something I expected. Came on rather quickly yesterday. You haven’t heard of any viruses going around, have you, Doctor Uhland?”
“Ah, yes. I believe I have. One has to be careful.” And they stepped into the elevator out of earshot of any lab technicians. With the door closed, Nelson’s demeanor fast changed. He braced himself on the elevator wall, wiped the sweat off his forehead, and lost his smile to a frown.
“Let’s cut to the chase, shall we, sir?” he said. “You guys did something to me. And it didn’t feel good at first, but now . . . now, although I still feel weak, I also feel different, better somehow inside. I want answers. I’m inclined to pull some strings and root you guys out of here with your secret project, but something tells me to hold off on that.”“Yes, please,” Josh answered, still feeling uncomfortable to have affected an important man like President Nelson. “Doctor Kevill will explain everything momentarily, sir.”
And the elevator doors opened, revealing the downstairs portion of the building, the secret portion, the area only accessible to those directly linked—what the DOD thought at least—to be a joint university/government project on nanotechnology and the human body, particularly the brain.Kevill waited for the pair, smiling, as they exited the elevator. Josh inserted his access card again into another security panel once they were in the hallway and the doors shut.“Welcome, sir, welcome! Doctor Andrew Kevill at your service!” He outstretched a hand, which Nelson shook half-heartedly.
“You’re the one I spoke to earlier? The head of this outfit?” Nelson said. His face was handsome, chiseled chin and cheekbones along with perfectly groomed hair and eyebrows.
“But of course. Of course!” Kevill countered. He turned around and led the group toward the main lab area.
Nelson put a hand on Kevill’s shoulder, though, to halt the progress.
“Then you can answer why I feel the way I feel! What the hell did you do to me? And if I don’t get satisfactory answers, I’ll shut this place down!”
Kevill turned back around, his face now quite serious.
“I think not, Doctor Nelson. I think not. You are one with the Torus now, so relax and join our little team.”“‘One with the Torus,’ huh? I can . . . can see that, somehow.” His eyes glazed for a moment but refocused on Kevill. “I don’t know how you got a government grant for whatever you’re doing, but this all seems pretty cracked up to me!”
“Cracked up, sir? Oh, no. Very tame and directed, as you’ll soon see.” Kevill started off down the corridor again, speeding away so that Nelson couldn’t again attempt to stop him.
They soon arrived at the main office, and Daka, no longer in a suit but today wearing another one of his multi-colored African shirts with jeans, stepped into the hallway before the trio arrived.
“You’re the one from church!” said Nelson.
“Meet Doctor Daka Nabouti,” said Kevill, gesturing his hand out toward Daka.
Daka made to shake Nelson’s hand but the president ignored it. “What did you spray in my face?”
Kevill didn’t allow Daka to answer. “A special formula we have devised here, Doctor Nelson. One that allows you to see more than you have ever seen before.”
Nelson again wiped his brow with a now visibly shaking hand. He touched the side of his graying head. “What . . . what are these thoughts I’m having? How did you do that?”
Kevill put his arm around Nelson’s shoulder. “Here. Come and sit down. Josh, get Doctor Nelson a glass of water.”
Kevill took Nelson to a comfortable black leather chair in the office and turned on the holo-projection unit. “I want you to take a look at this, Robert. Can I call you Robert?”
Nelson didn’t answer but sat down, nonetheless.
“And, by the way, we are sorry about your . . . ah . . . visit to the hospital yesterday. Unavoidable, I’m afraid.”
Kevill pulled up a schematic of one of the nanites that affixed itself to brain centers after inoculation. The 3-D picture of a round, metallic-looking object, spun slowly above the desk in front of Nelson, its skin filled with tiny grooves and lines, all symmetric and well-designed.
“Of course, this is blown up about ahundred thousand times, but here’s what we sprayed into you yesterday. The nanite, as we call it, one of thousands, is small enough to be airborne, breathable, and enter a host’s bloodstream, which takes the part-machine/part-biological mechanism straight to the brain. 
“At that point—” Kevill pulled up another schematic, this one showing a computer simulation of a nanite attaching itself to a neural network and then replicating itself. “—the nanite, with its brothers, transforms and mimics natural neurons in the brain and begins the process of feeding existing thoughts new information. Each nanite adapts itself to a host and soon becomes uniquely attuned to that host’s set of memories and brain patterns. Quite wonderful, eh?”
Nelson sat back, arms crossed, taking in the show. He scratched his scalp, even touched the side of his head a few times as if trying to feel the tiny computers at work inside. Kevill knew, too, the man probably felt a lingering headache from the workings in his head as they spoke.
“I’ve never heard of such a thing.” He looked up at Kevill hovering over him and then at Daka, who leaned against the far office wall.
“Yes,” Kevill continued. “Nanotechnology, as you know, Robert, isn’t exactly new. Our esteemed university does have a brave initiative to see how the technology, the study of the very small, can be harnessed and used for the benefit of mankind. And our lab here, the one in Engineering, among many others around the country, have taken great strides in understanding how we can manipulate atoms and molecules to control the world around us.”
Josh returned with a glass of water for Nelson, who sipped it and said, “Take me back to that—what do you call it, ‘nanite’?—picture again.” The German took a place beside Daka.
“Of course,” said Kevill.
“This metal ball is so small it can travel through the air and go through my bloodstream?”
“And you have devised a way for it to interact with my body and chemicals in my head?”
“Yes,” repeated Kevill. “And that interaction brings in the thoughts and feelings you are having now, doctor.”
“How do I know you didn’t just make me sick with a regular virus, doctor? This all sounds far-fetched to say the least.”
“Josh, bring up Doctor Nelson’s specs.” Kevill gave the president a doubting pout. “You yourself have said the ideas were new, right? We can show more to convince, though.”
Josh pushed buttons to display a series of numbers and a graph on the holo device. Nelson’s picture was in one part of the projection, and the president could also read “heart rate,” “blood pressure,” “brain activity,” and a few other signifiers.
“You can monitor my health now?”
“Yes. And by the look of your heart rate and blood pressure, I’d say you are stressing out a bit, Bob.”
Nelson took a few deep breaths. The heart rate on the projection dropped a few numbers.
“Okay. So you can read me. This is agreat breakthrough for medical science!”
“But there’s a whole lot more, isn’t there, Doctor Kevill?” Nelson swiveled in his chair and straightened up his back, catching a glimpse of the light beam though the room’s wall window. “What about these . . . these new thoughts I’m having?”
“Exhilarating, aren’t they?” Kevill said. “You’re a church-going man, aren’t you, Doctor Nelson?”
“You know the answer to that.”
“This project of ours, you see, is so much about those behaviors of going to church, talking about Jesus and God, believing how we fit in the world around us.”
“I don’t really think the Department of Defense had those ideas in mind when they awarded you this grant, doctor,” said Nelson. “I rather believe they were solely interested in your nanite-brain connection, not some religious undertaking.”
Kevill’s voice rose and became more animated. “Oh, no, not religious at all, Mister Nelson. Quite the opposite, I’m sure. Yes, the D-O-D would like us to manufacture their next human mind control warrior for the military. What a coup that would be, eh? No AWOLs, no discipline problems. Fight, fight, fight!
“But I soon saw a greater purpose to this line of research. I need the government’s money to carry it out, of course, and, indeed, we have been making strides in the direction mandated by our grant. Yet, those thoughts you have, Bob. They are very real. They’re about the Torus, about God, and so much about stopping all those silly wars that governments like to start.”
“Yes,” murmured Nelson, who closed his eyes for a moment. “Strangely, I see that. I can see this Torus of yours. So beautiful. So simple and unique. But why me, Doctor Kevill? What could I do to help your mad scientist plan? I know little of computers or machines.”
Kevill laughed. “Oh, I was hoping you’d ask that, doctor.” He shut off the holo unit with one push of a button on the desk’s computer. “Follow me.”
He led Nelson toward the main downstairs lab area, with Daka and Josh staying behind in the office.
“This is the centerpiece of our operation,” Kevill said, once he and Nelson stood before the area’s pillar of light. “What is it?”
“Our assembly plant, you could say.” Kevill paused and looked at his distinguished guest. “What did you get your doctorate in anyway, Bob?”
“Higher education administration. Why?”
“I should have guessed. But a real academic! Better than the political hoodlums we’ve had in the past at least.” Behind the transparent glass exterior, Nelson noticed tiny particles floating in the light beam. “What are they?”
“The seeds to our success, sir. Think of each particle as a member of the university community. Think of each particle acting as a part of the whole.” 
“We generate these nanites to be individual computers that, when placed in tandem in the human brain—or any brain, I guess, for that matter—work to shape thoughts. Thoughts lead to feelings. Feelings lead to action.”
Kevill circled the light beam and continued projecting his voice to Nelson from the other side. “You know our chaotic world, doctor. You know the fruitless attempts to make peace here and there. To get people to get along.”
“I’m not sure where you’re going, doctor,” said Nelson, who scanned the room nervously. The man was not in his element.
Kevill’s eyes were wild. “Nothing less than human evolution rides inside these little particles, Doctor Nelson! We implant them; they implant thoughts, or memes, as I call them.”
“Yes. Ideas. You know what I’m talking about. Where did that idea come from in your head? Did you read about the Torus? Did you hear a university lecture on the subject? I think not. The reality is, you are now part of the Torus as a full, thinking being . . . because you are aware of your connection to everything around you. How pithy to think only in black or white, good and evil, to run about in self-centered shadows. We have given you a gift, Doctor Nelson, that of sight and ability! With those two traits, who knows what people can accomplish!”
“Yes, I . . . ah . . . see your purpose, Doctor Kevill. I do feel it, too, strangely enough. But I ask again. Why me?”
Kevill circled back and stood at Nelson’s side, barely a half-meter away. “Because you have power, my friend!” he whispered in Nelson’s ear. “You have say and influence and connections! Don’t you see? For this project to really work, we need people like you to help spread our wonderful giftthroughout the world!”
“I can talk to people about these ideas, doctor,” said Nelson after a pause. He stood his ground close to Kevill, turning to face the man of equal age, his face now relaxed, as if he had begun to accept what was being told to him. “But they won’t listen. Or they’ll say they already know. I don’t think they feel what I feel now.”
Kevill winked. He pulled a necklace and pendant out of his pocket. “This, my friend, is a symbol of your success. Wear it with pride. A symbol of the Torus within you and your connection to the universe about.”
Nelson took the pendant and examined it.
“Now, it is your job to hand out more of these necklaces just as I have given you this one,” Kevill continued. “A gift. And, later, a release of the spores into the lucky new host.” “You want me to infect university staff or something?”
“Or something. Josh will hand you your first necklace when you return for a . . . staff meeting this Friday. You decide who you want next to feel the wonderful feelings you now have.Your wife? Your secretary? Maybe a vice president, huh? Soon, the process will become algorithmic, with an assembly line quickly filling this campus of ours.”
Nelson looked doubtful; he squinted his eyes like he was thinking this man is mad.
“With the sight and the ability given to those on this campus—teachers, staff, students—the University of Oklahoma is poised to be the best university in the nation!” Kevill hoped such a comment would further sway his colleague.
“Maybe,” Nelson said at length and coughed.
“No maybes here, Bob. We are on a quest, and you are now either with us or against us.” Kevill paused and looked back toward the lab’s office window behind them, both Josh and Daka standing by the table inside. He made a motion across his neck. “I can be a terrible enemy if you want that.”
Nelson gasped and held his hands to his head. “What?”
“We know you from theinside now, doctor,” Kevill said, watching Nelson bending over in pain. “We know what you do. It would indeed be in your best interest to carry on what has started.”
“Make it stop!” said Nelson.
“Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes. Yes! Make it stop!” yelled Nelson.
Kevill again turned toward the window and made the same gesture. Nelson pulled his hands away from his temples and stood up straight, breathing deeply.
“Unnecessary, Doctor Kevill,” he said. “I believe you.” He smiled a little at the corner of his mouth. “I believe we may have a . . . a common interest.”
Kevill knew the man, though an academic, believed in politics. “Oh, so glad to hear it, Robert. Now, if you would?” He gestured again, this time toward the office and a waiting Josh and Daka. “Boys, we have a new member of the team! Welcome tothe Torus team!”
Nelson had one more question. “How will you know when to . . . ah . . . activate those nanites of yours when I hand out the pendants?”
“Oh, we can monitor many things from this high-tech lab of ours.” Kevill smiled and nodded at Josh and Daka. “We just need you to be our courier. Soon enough, your friends and your university colleagues will all have the same passion toward the project as you have. Believe me.”
“Okay, Kevill,” Nelson said as he turned to leave. “But if you hurt anyone more than just some nausea and a headache like I’ve had, I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Doctor Nelson. You’ll be back soon anyway for a refill on your necklace supply, right?”
Nelson didn’t answer. He fastened on his Torus necklace and tucked it underneath his shirt and tie, making his way toward the elevator exit. Josh followed him as an escort and to drive him back to his office in administration.
After the two had left, Kevill turned to Daka. “Please run into the man tomorrow, Daka, to make sure he knows the seriousness of our mission.”
“Yes, sir.” Daka pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “Do you think he will carry through?”
“Outside with that, please,” Kevill said. “Yes, he’ll carry through. We’ll make sure of that. And speaking of carrying through, I have a call to make to Washington, if you don’t mind.”
Daka got up to leave.
“And, Daka?”
“Yes, sir?”
“Things are going quite nicely, don’t you think? Things are coming together?”
“I believe so, sir. I still don’t like that Brian boy running around on the loose, though. He knows too much.” Kevill had picked up his cell and started to dial. He stopped and looked up at Daka again. “Oh, yes. Our little problem child. I wouldn’t worry about him.”
“Yes, sir. But I can inoculate him so easily if I follow and get him alone. Just like I did with his friend.”
Kevill answered quickly. “I want something sweet for that fool. I want him when he least expects it and is feeling safe.”

“And he will soon be ours. Soon. Very soon.” Kevill then started dialing, signaling Daka to leave him alone.

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