The Torus Project

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

Chapter 33 (v.1)

Submitted: February 15, 2011

Reads: 57

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Submitted: February 15, 2011

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Chapter 33
2:15 a.m., Friday
The pair worked until the wee hours of the night, analyzing the computer files on each inoculant, searching the system files for a better awareness of the project. Montgomery, possessed of knowledge he had never had before, told Brian he had downloaded what he called “pertinent” information onto the nanite computers now residing in his head. He also made a backup to the handheld they had retrieved from Montgomery’s office at Montor. “All up here now,” he said, pointing to his temple. “But keep this . . . just in case.” He pushed the small computer onto Brian.
Interestingly, the man also had a knack for explaining the data they encountered. It was as if he had become one with the technology, knowing how it worked instinctively. Once, Montgomery paused looking at the project data. “I don’t think Doctor Uhland here has told us all he knows.”
“What do you mean?” said Brian.
“I mean that there seems to be a kink in the hose. The computers we have in our heads are slowly but surely starting to break down.” The old man grabbed his head with a shaky hand.
“What?” Brian knew from what Amber had told him that the nanites had mimicked natural brain processes, had attached themselves to hosts and replicated themselves to carry out the intrusion of new thoughts and beliefs.
“Afraid so,” murmured Montgomery. “No wonder I haven’t been swept away by these things.”
Brian was suddenly frantic to think that all his friends, all those innocent people would turn, somehow, into vegetables given time. “What . . . what do can we do?”
“I’m not sure. We might need Josh back when he arises . . . that Doctor Romber guy, too.”
Great, Brian thought. Two men on the “other side”. What good would they do? His eyes swept around the room, trying to get away from looking more at the project data on the computer screen. He noticed a white cloth resting on a small marble pedestal in one corner of the main office. Going over and moving it, Brian found wrapped inside at least fifty figure-eight pendants, all shiny, polished for use. The next round of infections, he thought, quivering at the prospect. He contemplated gathering them all up and stomping on them, but, not knowing the implications of such an act, held back. But what if one is for Wilson?
After they had finished their quest to more fully understand Kevill’s plan, the pair pulled Josh’s sleeping body into a storage closet around thecorner and past the main lab room, grabbing his handheld in case the computer scientist woke up and decided to cause them trouble. Next, they convened in front of the pillar of light in the main room, its flow full and bright even in the small hours of the morning.
“Amazing, isn’t it, Hue?”
Brian had learned to put up with the old man’s need to have his boy once again alive. He also saw tiredness in Montgomery’s eyes. The man looked like he might faint at any moment. “Yes. Tiny machines. Computers. Human computers. Incredible.” “Their research could be so beneficial to humankind,” said Montgomery. He rested some of his weight on Brian’s shoulder.
“Yep,” said Brian. “I can’t believe what they’ve done.  If the average person only knew—”
“They would storm this place and demand an explanation,” Montgomery broke in, giving Brian a wink and a smile. “Let’s get a few hours of sleep before the fun begins, shall we?”
The older man led Brian to another office off the entry hall between the elevator and the main office, though smaller. It held a flat-screen monitor and a small machine they had never seen before. Brian thought the device looked something like a vending machine, with multiple touch-screen buttons and a plastic window that hinted at internal mechanisms in the dark. Montgomery took an extra office chair from the room and rolled it down the hall about a meter in front of the elevator.
“We need a little warning when they decide to come back to the roost,” he said. “Not much, but I’m sure we’ll hear when they wheel it about.”
They went back to the office, opened the door, and sat in the other two chairs, dozing and waiting.
Brian had time to take a deep breath and think. 3:30 in the morning. What is our plan anyway? Hold everyone by gunpoint until they all just gave up and turn it off? What if they all don’t arrive? Where is Wilson? He hadn’t seen his boy for over a day now. That had not happened since Wilson was only one and Brian had to leave for a week of Air Force training. He craved to see the boy’s freckled face again.
“Doctor Montgomery?” he whispered in the darkness. They had turned off all lights to better surprise any newcomers.
“My boy! Call me Dad, please!”
“Ah . . . Dad, can you tell where Jackie Smithers or her friend Carol are right now? Can you read them?”
Montgomery yawned. “Wait. Let me see.” A few minutes passed. “Well, they seem to be asleep. Sorry. I only read dream images, possible memories of how they were infected, as you say. A dark man jumps out of the darkness, taking them by surprise, spraying something in their faces. I see the campus library in the background. I see Mike Reynolds there, too. A friend of yours, Hue?”
“Mike? Do you also see Wilson?”
“Wilson?” Montgomery’s voice was weak. Brian could hear the old man softly panting in the darkness.
“Oh, never mind.” So they must have been infected the night Amber slept over? Brian thought. No wonder they had looked out of it. “Okay, doc . . . Dad, thanks. ‘Night.” “Sorry I couldn’t be of much help.”
“Oh, you’ve already been great help. I’m just worried about Wilson . . . that’s all.”
“Sure. Good night.”
Brian didn’t close his eyes immediately, though. His worry kept him up; an adrenaline pushed him to listen carefully to the corridor outside and the elevator doors. He didn’t know exactly what he would do, but he knew the time had come for him to takea stand and reclaim what was his . . . a life.
 
#
 
Daka pulled into the lab’s parking lot, which was empty, and quickly took in the surroundings. Using his key, he accessed the building, disengaged the alarm, and assuredly made his way through the darkened main room upstairs to the corner elevator, entering his passkey for verification.
The elevator took a moment to come up to the main floor. That meant someone had gone down but not back up, he thought.
Daka pulled out his own gun, a modern military issue fit with laser pointer—something he had failed mentioning possessing to Kevill. He turned to the side before the elevator doors swung open. Once they did, he listened, gun raised and ready, before darting in front of the open doors and entering the elevator.
The doors opened again after five seconds, and, upon exiting, Daka stumbled into a metal roller chair sitting in the hall. It rolled a few centimeters before he could stop it. Quickly, Daka moved around the furniture, crouched, and pointed his gun into the darkened hall before him. The red exit light glowed, and the pillar of light at the end of the corridor, in the main lab area, gave a strange luminescence to the scene from around the far corner. Something was wrong, all right. The African kept his stance for a few moments before hugging the hallway’s wall to make himself less of a target for an ambush.
 
#
 
Brian shot out of his semi-slumber at the noise of the chair. The elevator! Someone had come down the elevator! At this time of night? His pulse quickened. He reached for Montgomery’s gun, which was in his lap for easy access.
“Doctor!” Brian hissed, but no reply. “Doctor!” he said again, but the older man must have succumbed to exhaustion, deep in sleep. He heard the heavy breathing from a few meters away and wondered if his partner had not already been “degraded” to an unconscious state.
Brian thought about shaking Montgomery awake but realized he didn’t have time. Any moment, the intruder or intruders would pass by their office door, the first room from the elevator, not 10 meters down the hall.
He saw a weak shadow, probably from the red exit light above the elevator. A single shadow. He knew its shape. Somehow, Brian knew that Daka had found him again.
 
#
 
Daka’s mind buzzed. His tongue licked his lips. How many times had he been in danger during his time as a mercenary? How many times had he felt the adrenaline pump? Those days weren’t gone. They were forever in his blood. He steeled himself, drew in a tense breath, and approached the open office door that should not have been open.
“Come out . . . if you know what’s good for you,” he said, also looking further down the hall in case of a trap.
No answer. Daka retreated and retrieved the office chair from in front of the elevator. While there, he knocked out the exit light above with his gun, cloaking his path back to the office in darkness. Only the soft luminescence of the light from the main lab filtered toward him down the hall. He tiptoed on sure feet to the door and tossed the chair just inside.
A shot went off, surprising Daka a little. He also heard someone yell as if the man, too, were startled. The African then darted past the open door, not wanting to be trapped down the hall if whoever was inside decided to come out blazing. Another shot went off. Two, he counted. He crouched for another round.
 
#
 
Brian saw the shadow get ever closer, and he tensed his weapon to fire, first disabling the safety. But, just as he was sure Daka meant to come around the corner, he heard the man’s voice, telling him to give up. “Never,” Brian whispered to himself, holding the gun more firmly than ever before, getting down into a crouch from the office chair. The shadow outside his door quickly dissipated. He blinked in half relief but didn’t dare lower his gun. He again heard the chair down the hall, this time only faintly. And the red-blanket light extinguished, sending him into total darkness except for a few lights from the machine in his room and the faint, white pulse from main lab’s light beam down the hall.
He took a deep breath, readied his firearm for any movement. It wasn’t long before he got some—the chair flew into the room, slamming against the vending-type machine, and he fired the weapon in mostly surprise, knowing a second later he had fired at a diversion.
Disturbingly, Montgomery made only a few incoherent noises after the intrusions of gunshots and chairs flying in the room.
A few moments later, Brian saw Daka fly past the door to the other side. He fired again but knew he had missed, the bullet ricocheting off the wall outside the open door.
“Good try,” said Daka. “Would you like a fire fight, eh? I can shoot very well, you know.”
“Hue!” Montgomery shot awake. “Hue!”
“Daka,” whispered Brian. “He’s found us somehow.”
He started to crawl behind the small room’s table, barely seen in the darkness, but a hand and gun peaked around the door jam and fired a shot of their own.
“Dah!” It was Montgomery. Brian squeezed off two more rounds but too late. The source of the shot had disappeared. “Doctor!” shouted Brian. He crawled next to the older man, who had fallen off his own chair and now breathed heavily. “You’re hit!”
Again, the hand came around the corner. Again, it fired, though this time missing the pair. Brian felt a whiz by his ear. He stood up, grabbed the small table in the office with both hands, and threw it to the floor in front of them. The ache in his ribs burned, but he ignored it.
“Where?” Brian said, once he had crouched by the doctor.
“The . . . shoulder, Hue. Only the shoulder.” Brian could barely make out Montgomery’s words. “Get the bastard, my boy. He won’t get away with this! Don’t die on me, boy! Don’t . . . go . . . away.” The man broke down in soft tears.
Madness, Brian thought. He was actually in a firefight to save his life and that of an old man intent on thinking he was his own son? Down in a lab filled with strange machines, all intent on changing the minds of the world? Fighting a man evidently trained to kill, a ruthless crony of Doctor Kevill? Madness was all Brian could think to describe the situation of his life at that instant. But he also knew he had to embrace the madness, become one with it, if he were to ever get out alive and see his son again. Wilson, Amber, his friends.
 
#
 
Daka counted four, four shots, and by their sound, he thought, the gun had only two left. Only two more to draw out before he had him for sure. He decided to make his way further down the hall and position himself for a final shot to end this.
 
#
 
“Are you going to be okay?” Brian said to Montgomery.“Yes, my boy. Yes,” the man sputtered, though Brian could tell the professor must have been losing a good deal of blood. He had to get Doctor Montgomery to a hospital . . . and fast. 
Brian took Montgomery’s jacket and pressed it on the old man’s body in the darkness. “Here. Put this against the wound. I’ll be back to help you out soon.”
He was tired, very tired. The sleep he had received at Doctor Montgomery’s the day before had been nice, but Brian’s aches were also from the head and from the heart. He knew if he didn’t succeed in stopping Daka now and next Kevill in the morning, all would be lost. He knew of no one else to turn to.
Brian’s fingers once again clasped the old pistol Montgomery had brought. A hopeless situation, he thought. How was he going to take out the African, who stood out there waiting for him to surface? And with only two shots?

#
 
His ears picked up the faint sound of the elevator doors opening again. Had Daka somehow gotten back there while he crouched beside Doctor Montgomery? Did the African mean to trap them down here while he gathered reinforcements?
The hallway’s low blue lights accosted Brian’s eyes. “Well, what’s going on down here?” A new voice—male, deep.
Daka’s voice could be heard in reply coming from somewhere down the hall toward the main lab. “Barnes! What are you doing?” he shouted. “This is not your business!”
Brian had been ready to charge out into the hall on a suicide mission but stopped.  Again, he crouched behind the upturned table next to Montgomery.
“Fight, Hue,” coughed the old man. “Don’t let them win.”
“We have an intruder,” Daka yelled again. “He must be taken down before he gives away the experiment!”
“Yes,” said Barnes, now noticeably closer to Brian’s door. “The student again? You just couldn’t take him in, could you, Daka? And now, what? Are you intent on eliminating him?”
“He has a gun,” said Daka, his voice quieter now. “I could not do it any other way.”
“Yes, my mercenary friend. I’m sure. I’m sure. But I think this experiment—” Barnes accentuated the word. “—has gone on far enough, I’m afraid. I’ll take it from here.”
“No!” Daka’s voice was strangely imploring. “You cannot!”
“Yes, my dark friend. I think I can.” And Brian heard Daka yelling out in pain, saying over and over “No, no, no!”; after about thirty seconds, all was quiet again.
The lights still blinded him some, but Brian saw a new shadow approaching his doorway. The light also illuminated Montgomery, who Brian could see was covered in red on his shoulder and chest. The old man seemed to have gone into a state of shock, eyes closed, breathing rapidly.
“He shot one of us in here,” Brian yelled. He didn’t know who the man was, but he decided to reveal himself for Montgomery’s sake. “We need a doctor!”
“Very well. I have no weapon as Daka did. Think of me as a friend who can help out. I’m coming around the corner now.”
Dr. Frank Barnes, light shining behind him, wore a blue suit and black tie. He held a small computer in his hands and quickly stashed the device away inside his jacket before holding his hands, palms up, toward Brian, who still held the gun pointed at the door.
“I am Doctor Frank Barnes,” he said with a slight smile. “I work for the government.”
“You, you know about this experiment?”
Barnes huffed. “Oh, yes. You could say we have sponsored it from the start. But Doctor Kevill. Hmmm.” He scratched his ear and tilted his head. “He has taken things far enough. The man is a loose cannon for us, you could say. Even Daka here seems to have taken things a bit too personally.”
“Daka works for you?” Brian was having trouble digesting this recent turn of events. “He’s . . . He’s infected?”
“Yes.” Barnes peered inside the room. “Do you mind?” He switched on the room’s lights. “And?” He gestured toward Brian, still holding the gun.
“Oh.” Brian had forgotten the weapon was still loaded and ready to go. Blinking his eyes from the light, he lowered it and stood up, nodding at the prone form of Daka outside in the hall. “Is he alive?”
“Yes. Just a temporary short circuit.” Barnes raised his handheld and smiled at Brian, a smug smile. “Seems you have been a thorn in the project’s side, haven’t you, ah . . .”
“Brian . . . Brian Minor.”
“Yes, Mister Minor. I respect your cunning. Really, I wouldn’t have shown myself so soon had you not pushed Doctor Kevill into acting . . . rashly.” Barnes carefully approached the pair, his hands still extended. “Okay, looks like your friend here is hit indeed. Let’s take him to a nearby hospital, no questions asked.”
Brian looked again at Montgomery, who breathed shallowly, thenback up at Barnes. Whatever plan the two had was now gone. But he had to do what he could to save the old man.
“Right.” He got behind Montgomery and started to pull the man by the shoulders out of the small office. “But I have friends involved in this experiment! My son!”
Barnes stepped out his way and stared at Brian, coolly flipping a piece of lint off his suit. “I know of the repercussions of the experiment thus far. At the meeting later today, things will be taken care of.”
“You’re going to give everyone infected back their lives?” shot Brian as he draggedthe professor slowly toward the elevator. A line of blood fell in his wake.
“Well, that’s a delicate matter, Mister Minor. Not so easily undone.” Barnes turned to follow but didn’t help.
“Why not?”
Barnes smiled, making sure he didn’t step in the blood trail. “Surely you know a little of what’s going on here? To control someone’s thoughts and so their actions . . . what a breakthrough in technology! And once they’re ‘infected’—not a term I would choose, but so be it—once they’re infected, the damage has been done. Their brains have been changed, with no turning back.”
Brian’s heart sunk. He wouldn’t believe it. No, not Amber. Not his friends.
“You mean you can’t turn those nanite things off?”
Barnes barely missed a beat. “They’ve bonded with the host’s brain, you see. I don’t think it’s possible just to shut things off without damaging the host.”
“I don’t believe it!” Brian had reached the elevator and got out Josh’s keycard from his pocket.
Barnes saw the motion. “Now, you had to coerce Doctor Uhland into allowing you access. Uhland may be able to help. Where is he now?”
Sure, Brian thought, Doctor Uhland. He’s the expert on computers. Surely, he would be able to help. “In a storage closet. Doctor Montgomery gave him something to sleep.”
He looked down at Montgomery’s pitiful condition and knew he needed to move faster but events kept piling on (up), it seemed.
“Oh, how resilient you have been indeed, Mister Minor. But what did you propose to do once you were down here, eh?”
“I’m not sure.” Brian slipped the security card into the elevator, opening the doors.
“Not sure!” Barnes laughed. “Program the computers for yourself?”
“Doctor Montgomery seemed to have a plan. He was infected you know, too. Maybe force Doctor Kevill into helping us like we did with Doctor Uhland.” 
“Yes, yes. Wait for Kevill to come down here, unknowingly walking into a trap, eh?”
Brian didn’t reply; he didn’t think he liked the man’s tone. Doctor Barnes. But doctor of what? Did the government really mean to put an end to this project?
Barnes looked back down the hallway. “How long did your friend say Doctor Uhland would be out?”
“He didn’t.”
“Very well. After the hospital, we’ll wait outside. The sight of you in the morning should trigger a few things for Doctor Kevill.” He paused as if contemplating the plan. “They’ll all be here, you know. Every one. Seems a good climax to your story, doesn’t it?”
“Wh . . . what do you mean?” Brian only wanted to see his “story” end—as soon as possible . . . whatever it took. Barnes only answered cryptically. “Oh, I guess we’ll have to wait another three or four hours to see.” 
Brian felt nervous, raw. “So Doctor Kevill knows nothing about you?”
“Oh, he knows me. He even infected me.”
Brian blinked in surprise. “But you seem okay now. You must have countered the effects!”
“Maybe. Daka was able to dilute the inoculation as it happened. We instructed him to change the programming a bit once I was hit. Even with the lower dose, though, you wouldn’t believe the strange stuff I’ve been thinking. Takes all my will sometimes just to see straight.” Barnes’ brow had begun sweating. Brian quickly pulled Montgomery into the elevator, his ribs stinging.
“Hah! Don’t worry, Mister Minor. I’m harmless!” He reached out to give Brian a pat on the shoulder but missed. “Now, let’s see this little episode through, shall we? Doctor Kevill is in for one big surprise.”
“Sir, I have a surprise for you.” And Brian, fed up with this stranger who had saved him from Daka but had not offered him much else, pulled out his gun, turned its handle, and hit Barnes square in the jaw. The DOD agent fell hard to the ground outside the elevator as the doors closed.
And as the lab elevator doors slipped shut, quiet. Too quiet. After knocking Barnes out, Brian took a deep breath as the elevator rose to the first floor. It was then that he realized that Dr. Montgomery had stopped breathing.
Blood covered the floor; the soft lighting showed Brian the wound to the old man’s chest.
“No!” he yelled. “No!”
He tried to do what CPR he knew, but he didn’t know much. He tried to revive the man. But Dr. Montgomery was lost. Brian’s only friend in the world had been taken away.


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