The Torus Project

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

Chapter 31 (v.1)

Submitted: February 15, 2011

Reads: 58

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Submitted: February 15, 2011



Chapter 31
2:22 a.m., Thursday
Brian and Montgomery made their way out of the hospital through a stairwell and a side exit, the older man not wanting anyone to see a patient leaving the hospital. It had been raining that night, causing the pavement to take on reflections. A light mist still filled the air, further fogging Brian’s vision from the drugs coursing through him.
The older man’s car, a clean, black Toyota Corolla, sat in the parking lot. Both men kept a keen eye out for Daka or others who might not want Brian to get away so easily.
“You say Doctor Kevill has an African working for him?” said Montgomery as they approached his car.
“Yeah. Athletic. Mean. He must be a fighter or something.” Brian still wasn’t convinced his drive wouldn’t lead him to Kevill’s lair, with Montgomery about to lock the car doors once they got in and then calling for the black man to pop up from somewhere in lot.
“Uh, huh. Sounds like an enforcer, all right. Strange.” He unlocked the doors, and they entered the car.
“What?” said Brian, gingerly adjusting himself in the seat. He felt the bandages along his ribcage and minor ones on his arms and forehead.
“Well, Kevill’s ideas spinning in my head speak of peace, non-violence, a better way to connect with others . . . But then he seems to resort to violence anyway to get things accomplished.”
“The guy’s crazy, doctor. I don’t know what disguise he put on in the department with the other teachers, but, believe me, he has gone off the deep end.”
“Oh, I believe you, Brian. It just makes me think that he and this Daka man must not be full of the nanotechnology themselves. They sit outside the web, like a spider, capturing the prey as it comes.” The older man squeezed the driving wheel and stared into drizzle.
The thought sent a shiver through Brian. He instantly pictured his son being filled with tiny machines somewhere, somewhere trapped, screaming and sick.
Montgomery took off from the lot, and just as he did, the men could see a silver Volvo coming in the entrance, slowly heading their direction.
“That’s Daka’s car!” yelled Brian. “Turn around!”
“Duck, my friend. I don’t think this man knows my face yet. Duck, and we’ll see what happens next.”
Grunting in pain, Brian bent as low as he could beside Montgomery while the older man slowly accelerated to exit. He heard the splash of the other car as it passed them through the puddle-filled lot.
“He gave me a look, but I see him parking now.” Brian noticed Montgomery peering through his rear view mirror, a look of fear and determination mixing across his face. “Okay. Coast is clear.”
Brian gave a sigh of relief and sat back up. He realized then that the professor didn’t mean him harm.
“You could have turned me in back there,” he said, looking over his shoulder at the hospital shrinking from view.
Montgomery looked at his freed prisoner. “Yes, my boy, I could have. But I didn’t and won’t . . . If I have anything to say about it.”
They both paused to contemplate the mist that hit the windshield. Brian thought only about Wilson and Amber, of Amber’s body there in Romber’s office. He had to know they were all right.
“I need to stop by my friend’s apartment to see if Wilson is all right,” Brian implored.
“No.” Montgomery shot him an apologetic look. “I told you. Your friend is one with the Torus now. But I don’t think they’ve touched the boy yet.”
“Yet? Yet! I have to try and rescue him before it’s too late!” Brian ran his free arm over his ribs and clenchedhis jaw.
“They won’t hurt him.” His voice took on a tone of command. “Look, we’ve got to regroup and make a plan. Let me take you home with me . . . just for tonight. My wife and I will help you out. Don’t worry.”
But Montgomery’s advice didn’t sink in for Brian without a fight. How could it? His whole world stood on end—son gone, Amber gone again, Mike and Jackie and Carol now all under Kevill’s spell. He wanted to go rushing into Kevill’s house or even their lab and demand they release everyone, but how could he? In his state, Daka would soon overpower him and spray the virus in his face. He wanted to destroy the computers that held his family and friends hostage, but how? Without destroying them, too?
Brian didn’t want to, but he had to trust someone. And Montgomery had stepped in to offer his help. The man was a wildcard; he was infected, for God’s sake! But, nevertheless, he was Brian’s only hope, it seemed, to gain back the life he had lost, to form for himself what he knew he wanted now. He wouldn’t let go. He couldn’t. One way or the other, Kevill was going down in the next forty-eight hours. Brian knew it.
Lost in his thoughts and still very much drugged up, Brian found himself drifting off to sleep. He tried to fight it, his eyelids bobbing up and down to the soft rhythm of the car making its way through the wet streets of Norman. But his body failed, and the next thing Brian knew he was being softly shaken awake by Montgomery, who had stopped his car in the drive of a one-story house and had moved around to Brian’s side of the car.
“My house, Brian.” The student jumped awake and looked up into the teacher’s brown eyes, taking in a white-painted garage, brick walls, and light-tracked garden along the house’s front. “Let’s get you something to eat and drink and then some sleep. Way past my bedtime, I’ll have you know.”
They made their way inside. The house was decorated in antiques and knick-knacks. An old butter churn rested beside the front door, with little mirrors and candleholders adorning the walls of the entryway and the short hall to the kitchen. The eating area was filled with plants, vines lining the walls, and old plates and containers ran around the room’s perimeter on a shelf by the ceiling. Montgomery fixed a glass of milk for both of them along with some graham crackers, trying hard not to make too much noise.
“Don’t want to disturb my wife yet with all this business.”
“You haven’t told her?”
Montgomery looked down a hallway lined with pictures of family and the darkness past. “No. I don’t think she would understand. Hell, I don’t even fully understand.” He smiled a bit, but the face was soon followed up with one of pain.
“I’ve known your Doctor Kevill for years, Brian. I kind of thought of him as a son in ways.” He took a drink from his glass and nibbled on a cracker. “But he changed. I don’t know what exactly got into him. But he is not the same man I once knew when he first arrived in our department.”
“What does he hope to accomplish, doctor . . . to change the whole world? Can he really believe he has the power to do such a thing?”
“Andrew. Always optimistic. He was always driven. But—” Montgomery looked into his milk as if answers swirled around in the liquid. “—but this is different. What would cause him to go so far?”
Brian thought about his previous idol, thought about Kevill and, for the first time, thought about a possible human side to the man. He would have rather painted him as ruthless and evil, but Brian could see Montgomery as a possible connection to Kevill, a source of knowledge to the man’s weak link.
“Did he ever have a wife, Doctor Montgomery, kids?”
“Call me Carson. Remember?” The older man looked back up at Brian and blinked. “No. Never married. No kids that I know of. He did take that Hays girl in after her father died.”
“Yes. Amber. She’s one of us, too, you know.”
Brian didn’t answer, only balled his fist and took a deep breath.
“But I do believe he loved once. A while back. Before this other woman entered his life now.”
“He has a woman now?” Brian couldn’t see Kevill caring about anyone save himself and his project.
“Yes. Madalene. Only know her first name. Spanish professor. I see them together at department functions and have met her. Seems nice, but I believe Andrew had someone before her, someone who he lost and never forgot.”
“Oh, really?” Brian’s inflection pressed for more information. He fought the sleepiness to understand his once-idol.
Montgomery took another drink of milk and sat back in his chair. Brian could tell the man was tired. “We got drunk together once, about four or five years back. Before he . . . changed. There at his house. He was alone then, and you know what alcohol can do to the tongue.” He gave Brian a quick smile.
“Anyway, he told me a story. I never brought it up to him since, but I haven’t forgotten it either. Seems Kevill fell in love during his doctoral years with a beautiful, outgoing fellow psychologist. He could hardly speak of her, even in his inebriated state, without going into a hushed tone, like the whole incident was sacred, holy.
“They spent a good two years together, if I remember right, but their career paths diverged after both achieved their doctorates. He wanted a nice, cushy university job that would allow him to doresearch. She, though, wanted to be more out in the world and see things, meet people, while offering her skills. Maybe she had gotten her degree in counseling. I forget. But the woman had a great impact on Andrew, I’ll tell you that much.”
Brian felt both revulsion at hearing of Kevill’s story and intrigued. “So she left him?”
“Yes. And no. She did go and explore. He did find a job at a smaller university researching. But they kept in touch, with Andrew believing it would only be a matter of time before she spun her wheels and wanted to come home.
“And he was right. After a little over a year in such places as Europe and African, his love talked to him one day and said she was ready to settle down. In a month she would be coming home. Andrew was ecstatic, he said. He counted the days for her arrival . . . but that arrival never came.
“You see, this woman was working out in the field one day, observing people for some research she was doing, when a bomb went off and killed her, a bomb planted by some terrorist organization intent on what terrorists do—striking fear to gain a sense of power.”
The information hit Brian, causing him to recall his own wife’s death at the hands of a radical faction in the Middle East. He realized with surprise that he and Dr. Kevill shared hisbitterness over losing someone they loved. But their adaptation to such losses was quite different.
“So you think he became hardened after his loss and turned it into this . . . this Torus Project?” Brian whispered.
“Yes. Yes, I do.” Montgomery again looked down the long, dark hallway of his home. “You see, Brian. People react differently to big changes in their lives. Some give up. Some feel the feelings and work through it. But some, like Doctor Kevill, internalize the pain. They become . . . twisted inside. They grab hold of the pain and anger and use it as a motivator. But, as you can see, such motivation most often is not positive. Andy has taken his pain and his intellect and created a monster. That’s why he must be stopped.”
Both men sat in silence for a minute, a long enough time for Brian to again feel the effects of his drugs and the need to rest.
“Here. Follow me. We have a spare room.” With a shaky gait, Montgomery led Brian from the kitchen to a small bedroom. “The restroom is right across the hall. Rest up this day, Brian Minor, for we will need our strength, I feel, in the hours and days ahead.”
Brian quickly disrobed downto his underwear and laid down under clean, white sheets and a plaid-patterned cover. Before going to sleep, he thought aboutlosing those you love. He thought of Wilson and Amber. His eyes briefly scanned the room before closing and saw pictures of a man, about his own age, dressed in a military uniform, with dark hair and a thin build like himself. Montgomery and his wife were with the man in one picture, all three smiling. Brian turned and saw a desk in one corner, an old wooden desk full of papers of books. A sliding closet door was half-way open, and Brian saw hung in there clothes that an old man and woman wouldn’t wear.
Doctor Montgomery’s son? Wilson? He couldn’t think anymore and fell fast into a deep sleep.
Brian woke to the slim shades of sunlight coming through his draped bedroom window. His ribs hurt like hell after rolling over more than once during his rest. He also had a nasty headache and craved some water.
The pictures were still hung on the wall, and Brian got up, put on his clothes, and peered more closely at them. Yes, staff sergeant Hue Montgomery, one picture read. Marines, Brian thought, knowing military ranks and units well from his own stint in the service. The man also wore a beret in one picture, signifying Special Forces, or so Brian thought. He turned to the desk and noticed a row of medals behind aglass in one corner of the furniture. The papers he had seen the night before seemed to be letters, recently read, maybe, by their state, all addressed “Mom and Dad” and signed “Your son, Hue.” 
He was looking over one such letter, dated February 16, 1991, when the bedroom door squeaked open. He dropped the letter and turned, seeing an elderly lady in her seventies, wearing a one-piece, flowered dress, her gray hair tied up in a knot atop her head.
“I see you’ve found Hue’s things,” she said and smiled. “You do look a little like him.”
“Ma’am?” said Brian.
“Our son, Hue.” Brian could see some pain in her eyes. “Haven’t changed much about this room since he died.”
Brian didn’t quite know what to say. “Sorry to hear that, ma’am.”
“Yes, well, Carson says you’re in need of a little help. Won’t go into much details, the old man, but says I should see if you’re hungry or thirsty.”
“Yes, ma’am. I could use something to drink. Maybe some water.”
“Just call me Lois, young man. Lois will do.”
Lois steered Brian to the kitchen area again. He read a bird-pictured clock on the wall that it was past 5:30 in the afternoon.
“Geez! I slept all day!”
“From the look of your bandages, you needed it.”
Brian’s thoughts were now clicking into gear. Though still in some pain, he felt ready to get his son back, whatever it took. He saw an old phone on a desk and thought about phoning Jackie’s place even though Montgomery had said they were in with the Torus Project now. Not Jackie and Carol! Not Wilson!
“Where’s Doctor Montgomery?”
Lois brought Brian some water and a ham sandwich. “Carson? Stepped out for a minute. Said he’d be right back.” She put her hands on her hips and stared at Brian. “Now, you going to tell me what’s going on? The old man sure won’t.”
Brian looked back at her, trying to concoct a story to explain his injuries and Dr. Montgomery’s interest in him. He was just about to tell her he was a psychology major and had recently fallen within sight of her husband on campus. Since he looked so much like her son, Montgomery had taken kindly to him and offered him a place to rest.
The story didn’t come out, though, since Montgomery himself entered the house carrying a bag full of junk—wires, pieces of metal, boxes with switches, and other things underneath.
“Now, what in tar nation is that?” said Lois, moving over to intercept her husband.
“Ah, psychology stuff, honey,” he puffed. “Brian and I are conducting an experiment. One of my students, you see. But fell trying to help me yesterday. So much like Hue . . . don’t you agree?”
They both looked at Brian, who felt a little nervous under the scrutiny. “How did you fall?” said Lois, now apparently softer after a bit of explanation had been tossed her way.
“—darn two-way mirror. Told the head to replace it. Brian was adjusting it on top of a ladder when it gave way. He bruised his ribs, as you can see, and knocked his head pretty badly, too.”
“I see,” said Lois.
Montgomery gave Brian a knowing look and pulled the paper sack of goodies away from Lois’ prying eyes. “Eat up and drink, boy! We need to go back to the department tonight!”“Tonight!” said Lois.
“It’s a time thing, honey. Have to finish by tomorrow, you see.”
Brian raised his eyebrows and plowed into the sandwich and water. The husband and wife disappeared down the hall, but he could hear them adamantly discussing things in raised voices. One snippet he caught was Lois saying, “But you haven’t done experiments like that for years!”
Soon Montgomery appeared, still holding the sack, which looked a little more full of wires and metal objects than before. “Time to go, Brian. Are you ready?” Brian had fleeting thoughts about a nice shower and a change of clothes but soon pressed his own needs aside, thinking of what needed to be done.
To the chagrin of Lois, who stood at the front door, hands on hips again, the two men got into Montgomery’s car and headed out of his neighborhood.
“What’s with the sack?” said Brian. “Why didn’t you just leave it in the car?”
“Oh, I had to convince the old lady we were actually doing something, you know. I just piled some electronic gear in there to fool her.”
“Oh.” Brian couldn’t quite figure that out but didn’t pursue it any further. Sunlight was getting less and less, compounded by clouds brought in by the storm of the previous night. “Where are we going?”
“We are actually going to Montor,” the old man said. Thoughts of Kevill’s office came to Brian. He believed that such an excursion might be too much of a risk. Plus, after his “escape” from the hospital, he thought an all-points bulletin surely had his face plastered on every Norman cop car computer.
“Yes, I know,” said Montgomery. “Near to Kevill’s office, but I need to gather some things from my office first before we proceed.”
“Proceed to where?” Brian slunk in his seat, ready to cower at the sight of the police or anyone he knew.
“To Kevill’s lab, of course.”
“But that’s locked up tight, doctor! We can’t get in there!”
Montgomery shot Brian a confident smile and reached into the bag he had placed in the back seat. A sturdy gun came out with his hand, shiny metal. Brian had seen the likes during his military days and knew it to be real.
Montgomery placed the gun back in the bag and put a finger up to his lips.
“I thought we’d take a little pit stop first and . . . convince someone to come to our side.”
Which meant what? Brian thought, but he didn’t ask. He worried too much about Wilson to think straight. He sat back for the ride.

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