The Torus Project

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

Chapter 35 (v.1)

Submitted: February 15, 2011

Reads: 56

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Submitted: February 15, 2011

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A A A

Chapter 35
4:30 a.m., Friday
Exhausted. Completely exhausted was how Brian felt.
Once swiping the security card to open the doors, he quickly draggedBarnes’ unconscious body into the small elevator. Montgomery’s open mouth and eyes made him fall over Barnes, though, as he entered. Two deaths in a matter of an hour was almost more than he could take.
Brian didn’t ascend. He just lay there for moments beside the bodies, gasping for air and holding his now wounded left arm with his right hand. From what he could tell, the bullet had actually ripped through his triceps muscle. Lucky, he thought. No major artery. It still bled, of course, and it hurt like hell, but Brian was able to keep a few cogent thoughts together to wonder what he would do next. Daka dead? he thought. He had hardly allowed himself to believe that would ever be true, at least after confronting the killer again tonight in the lab.
Finally, Brian stirred himself to take Barnes’ belt and secure the DOD agent’s hands with it. The act brought his captive awake.
“What?” Barnes looked around and saw the body of Montgomery next to him, looked at himself and blood upon his nice suit. “What have you done?”
Brian reached into Barnes’ front pocket to retrieve the man’s handheld. He also remembered Montgomery’s handheld given to him, the one with all the nanite information--gone. His gun had disappeared as well. With the professor dead, that small computer now had everything the two had uploaded hours before.
“Daka’s dead,” said Brian. He had lost all emotion. Barnes was only a means to an end to him. He was no man. No feeling person. Somehow, Brian felt he could in fact kill again if he had to . . . if he could get Wilson back and free himself of the pain.
“Dead? How?” Barnes’ casual demeanor was shaken by his predicament. “I knocked the man out with my computer you have there.”
“Seems when you were knocked out, he woke up. Came after me. I had to kill him.”
Barnes’ eyes grew wide. “You? But he’s a trained killer! You’re . . . you’re only a student.”
“Yeah. Only a student. And this student is going to get his son back, his friends back, and put an end to all this mess.”
The DOD agent smiled in reply, though in evident pain, a growing bruise showing on the right side of his face. “And how do you propose to do that, my friend? But wait. What did you do back in there? Why are we huddled in the elevator?”
“What do you mean?”
“What happened with you and Daka in the lab? I sense . . .” Barnes tried to move his hands; his eyes snapped shut.
“That light pole thing, you mean? Daka fell into it. Gone. I guess the nanites got loose.”
Barnes stared again at Brian, his jaw dropping. “Loose! They’ll all sense it, you know! Just like me. They’ll sense something wrong. Just like someone stomping on the ant pile and all the ants soon know.”
Brian shook his head to stay focused. He ripped his shirt into a bandage to stave the bleeding in his arm. “You mean, they’ll tell Kevill.  He’ll come?”
“If he’s not already en route,” barked Barnes. “Let me free. I can help!”
Brian was having trouble focusing. They are all connected. “Right. You will help. But what about the nanites? Doctor Uhland is in there. Can you read him?”
Barnes squeezed his eyes shut again. “The nanites? They’ve dissipated by now. Josh is okay. I think he’s coming out of the drugs, though.”
“Already?”
“The technology inhibits some medications, I have found.” The DOD agent shirked away from Montgomery’s body and fell toward the elevator doors. “Come on, Brian. Release me. I need my handheld back as well.”
“And what will you do?”
“Help you, for goodness sake! Kevill will be here any moment!”
“I think we need Doctor Uhland as well,” Brian said. “Nanites gone, you say? Come on.” 
Not knowing if the whole lab was now contaminated after Daka’s shattering the particle-protecting glass, he took a deep breath and held it as he punched the elevator doors to open again. With his one free arm, Brian pulled on Barnes—the agent’s arms extended forward, tied in front with a belt—as they exited into the hallway.
Nanites were small enough not to be seen, not to be heard or felt or tasted. Brian knew he could very well be walking into an infection, but the pull of rescuing his son made him take a step out into the white-walled corridor.
Down the hall, he could barely make out the remnants of his struggle with Daka—the table, some pieces of glass, a red mark against the wall. The light beam looked to have gone out. Montgomery’s streak of blood in front of him was all the more obvious. He forced himself to stay focused on the task at hand and pushed Barnes ahead of him to where Josh was tied up in the corridor past Daka’s dead body.
Lights burned his eyes. He was having trouble staying awake. Tears welled. Brian pounded an angry fist against the wall as they passed the African, sobbing dry sobs, forgetting to hold his breath. As quickly as they had come, his tears had dried away. He had to stay in control. Only he could set things straight.

#
 
Josh acted groggy, but Barnes was able to kick him awake at Brian’s prodding. Finding Daka’s gun in the main lab room also helped Brian’s position in keeping the two men in check. Where did I put Carson’s gun? Where’s the handheld?
“Okay. What now, big student?” said Barnes. They stood in the hallway outside the office where Josh had been stored. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevill walked in any minute with the campus police. You are still bleeding, you know.”
Brian briefly surveyed his physical state—bandaged ribs, a wound through the arm, a recent concussion. He needed a week’s rest but didn’t have the luxury.
“Doctor Uhland, you know this guy?” Brian had kept Josh tied by the wrists; the two men would be a match for him, he thought, if they decided to rush at once.
“He’s D-O-D,” Josh said evenly. The German looked down the corridor and saw the broken pillar, the body of Daka. He said nothing more, though.
“Did you know he was actually running Daka over there?” Brian nodded down the hallway, his gun shifting from one person to the other.
“Huh? Running?”
“Right. In control. Daka was one of them. A government agent, I guess.”
The news caused Josh to flex his jaws repeatedly. Barnes only closed his eyes in seeming concentration. “Terrorist!” Josh spat.
“Looks like the government has really been in control here all along, Doctor Uhland,” Brian said. “Are you going to explain that to Kevill when he comes?”
“When he comes?”
“Yeah. When the others tell him that the nanites or whatever have been broken here.” Brian nodded behind him to the broken pillar.
Josh smiled and looked at Barnes, who still stood with eyes closed. “They won’t know if the processor has been broken. They only contact one-on-one. Did he tell you—ah!”
The German grimaced. “What is it you’re—”
Barnes’ eyes finally opened, and he smiled. “You see, Josh, you are one of us, too. And you didn’t even know it. All those nasty cigarettes Daka smoked, all laced with nanites we had created just for you, unreadable by your computers here. Believe me, I checked on my periodic visits.”
“What?” Josh threw himself into Barnes, knocking the government agent against the wall and to the floor. “That can’t be!”
“Oh, yes, sir. You feel me now, don’t you? I’ve been augmented by our labs. I am in touch with the computers in your head!”
Brian stepped back. This was becoming all too much. Both Daka and now Doctor Uhland part of them? And Doctor Uhland hadn’t even known it? Kevill wasn’t coming after all? The nanites couldn’t be read by the others?
“Why do believe the project has proceeded as it has? Because of Doctor Kevill? No, Josh. You, you are the brains here. We needed you to keep the experiment in check.”
Josh looked wild. He had closed his eyes, his jaws now working frantically. “No! Impossible!”
Barnes lay on the floor, eyes closed. “Get to the computer, Josh. Signal Kevill. Signal them to come. He won’t shoot you. Don’t fight it, Josh. Don’t.”
“Enough!” Brian yelled and fired one of the last rounds of Daka’s gun into the ceiling. The noise broke Barnes’ invisible pull on Josh and gave Brian just enough time to kick the agent in face, once again in the jaw. His head slammed against the wall, his body sliding in a heap to the floor.
“Doctor Uhland . . . Josh, I want you to go to the computer now and call Kevill, Romber, Mike, Amber, everyone here now. You can do it. Get everyone here!” Brian pointed the gun in Josh’s face, which looked despondent from the news and evidence that he had been inoculated behind his back.
Brian had Josh lock Barnes in the closet before escorting the German to the main lab office, where they reactivated the computer. Brian had to free the computer professor of his own bonds, and Josh spent some minutes cleaning up the system after the catastrophe with the lab’s pillar of light.
“Why call him now, Brian? Why call them now?” said Josh. “They will all meet later this morning, in a matter of hours.” He turned to look at Brian, a stern, sad look on his face. “I am fucked, okay? This project is finished. The government was playing me! I have nothing against you. I have nothing against your friends. I want out.”
“Wh . . . what do mean?” said Brian. With all that had taken place, he didn’t know whom to trust anymore.
“I mean, the idea was good. The technology was good. Listen. Kevill and Hays did discover ways to mesh the brain with computer technology, but it was flawed. It has always been flawed!”
“Flawed. Something wrong with the nanotechnology?”
Josh took a deep breath. “Allow me?” He approached Brian and his arm wound. Brian kept the gun pressed into Josh’s stomach while the man repositioned the bandage to keep the bleeding down. “Yes, flawed, Brian. You met with Romber. You know of his experiments with quantum computers. Well—shit!—that’s what I’ve become. They’ve all become. Quantum computers. But such computers, I’ve slowly realized, need more research, especially if they’re going to be integrated into the human brain.”
“What happens, Doctor Uhland?” Brian remembered Montgomery’s fading memory, him calling Brian “Hue”. He also remembered Amber saying how her feelings for him had messed up her drive to stay with the project.
Josh scratched his crew-cut head and wiped hisbleary eyes. “Some kind of erosion. I’m not for sure. It plays with memory, feelings, behavior.”
“But can it be fixed?” Brian implored. “Can they come back?”
“They. And me? That’s why I don’t want to call them now, Brian. Give me some time. Let me work on it. It’s my life, too, you know.” Josh turned his back on Brian and huddled over the lab computer.
“Okay. But how do I know. How can I trust you?”
“You don’t,” he said, back still turned.
“When do they meet?”
“Ten,” said Josh.
Brian looked at his watch. A little after five. “All right. You have about five hours. See what you can do. I’m going to clean up and see if things can look somewhat normal around here. But if anything goes weird . . .”
“Right.”
And Brian left the disheveled Josh to his experiments to find a mop, a bucket, water, and a trash can. He would have rather had Josh find his friends, one of whom probably had Wilson. But he was patient. Wilson would be here soon. Soon they would be okay. He hoped.
 
#
 
9:00 a.m., Friday
Kevill and Madalene awoke late, dressed, and made their way to the lab. Kevill was in good spirits and wore dark dress pants, a white shirt, and a bold, red tie. His ponytail was fastened tightly down his back with three or four long rubber bands. Madalene wore casual jeans and a blue and white shirt. She didn’t act as excited as her lover toward the big day at the lab.
“Oh, a day of reckoning, my dear! A day of reckoning!” Kevill took out his cell and tried to contact both Daka and Josh. Neither answered. “What are the bastards doing, sleeping in on this most crucial day?”
“I’m sure they’ll be there, Andy.” Madalene looked tense, her hair and makeup not done as well as Kevill would have liked. It was the first time to parade his lover in front of the inoculants; he wanted her to augment his appearance, to prop him up in the eyes of his flock.
They neared the lab and saw Daka’s car. Kevill had arranged the upstairs lab to be closed for the day for maintenance. The personnel there were, overall, happy for the three-day weekend. “Well, I see Doctor Nabouti is here. Need to tell him to turn on his phone, though. And he should have already left if he’s going to pick up Barnes at the airport!” The morning air was humid, belying a hot day to come. The couple entered the quiet lab and made their way to the elevator in anticipation of future visitors.
Kevill paused. Little things. He had always been attuned to little things. Not right. He sensed something not right about the lab this morning. Placing his keycard in the elevator, he looked down and saw a red smudge on the elevator door. What? he thought, touching the spot. Some of it came off on his finger. Red. Blood. Yes, something definitely not right about the lab this morning.
“What’s the matter?” Madalene questioned.
“Oh, nothing, honey . . . We just need to hire a better cleaning crew, that’s all.”
The elevator, its insides normal-looking to Kevill, hummed to the basement floor and opened. Josh stood ready to greet the pair.
“Doctor Uhland! So nice to see you on this fine day!” beamed Kevill. “You know Madalene. Yes, yes. How silly of me. Something wrong with your phone? Where’s Daka?”
Josh cleared his throat. “We had a bad accident, sir, the batteries in my phone only a minor inconvenience.”
“You didn’t call me sooner from the lab computer?” Kevill stormed down the hallway in pursuit of the problem. “What has happened. Actuator go down?”
“Worse, I’m afraid,” said Josh, trotting to keep up. Madalene was soon left behind. “Overheating. The production array. I’ve just been here under an hour-”
Kevill soon saw the broken pillar, now only a pair of metal pedestals on the main lab’s floor and ceiling, pieces of glass piled in a corner of the room. “Nooo!” He walked around the now-empty space with arms stretched out, jaw open. “But it was tested!”
“Still running tests, sir. Sometime during the night, the thing must have exploded.”
“The nanites?”
“Long since extinct, but they surely were the culprits . . . their heat causing the explosion.”
Kevill, a look of defeat on his face, rested on his heels. “Our big day. Barnes. Is he still coming?”
“Daka had to take a cab,” lied Josh. “His car also . . . eh . . . overheated this morning.”
“Huh? Now, that’s a synchronicity I don’t like the hear.” The professor tugged at his ponytail. “And his cell, I suppose, is off just like yours? The fire extinguishers in the lab not go off either?”
“Off? You tried to call him? I don’t know.”
Kevill stood back up and looked at Madalene on the far side of the room. “Madie, why? This will take weeks to re-do!”
She looked at the pieces and Kevill’s face but held her ground. “I’m sure you will get it back together, my dear.”
“Yes. Yes. Josh, monitor all inoculants, and contact Daka. Better yet, contact Barnes directly. Check his arrival time.”
“Sure.” Josh went back to the main office, followed by Madalene, leaving Kevill in the lab alone. The psychology professor, still dumbfounded by the turn of events, sat again on his heels. That was when he noticed another splotch of blood, this one on the floor.
Overheated, eh, Josh? he thought. Or did an argument get overheated instead?

#
 
That morning, forcing himself to stay awake, Brian had tended to his own gunshot wound as best he could by wrapping his arm with the white cloth that had held the pendants in the office. He had even located a first aid kit in a closet, and, painfully, poured alcohol on the wound, putting on some more tape and gauze. Brian knew he would have to see a doctor, but it would do for now.
His next step was to make the basement lab look as normal as possible. Not an easy task since two dead bodies haunted the place plus blood and bullet holes and thousands of fragments from the now-extinct pillar of light. 
Brian had cleaned up the entry corridor and closed the door to the mid-way office where Montgomery had died. Next, with Josh’s help, he laboriously drug Montgomery, Daka, and Barnes to the elevator and into a supply closet on the first floor of the main lab. He had thought about taking them outside, but fear of being spotted kept him in. Montgomery’s lifeless eyes brought another round of sobs from Brian as he tenderly placed the older man out ofsight. Barnes wasn’t at all happy about being stuck with two dead men; Brian placed a gag in his mouth.
He also had retrieved towels and soap from the closet and proceeded to clean up blood, glass, and other remnants of the night’s battles, as well as cleaning himself off, too. Not perfect, but, again, Brian thought, it would have to do. The work kept his mind busy—off Wilson and awake. After the cleanup, he put himself in position for the final show. And Brian had been in this place before. When he and Carol had broken into the lab, the desk he now hid behind was the very same desk he had used to elude Daka that night.
Often his mind wondered, struggling to stay focused and ready when Kevill and the others arrived.A few times, though, he had slipped into sleep without realizing it. On one such occasion, he bolted awake upon hearing the upstairs lab’s main entrance door open and the overhead lights flood into his closed eyes.
The voices of Kevill—Kevill!—and another lady could be heard. They headed straight to the elevator and descended. Must be Madalene, he thought. Brian read his watch at 9:35 a.m. Later than he had thought they would arrive. He briefly planned on following them then and confronting the rogue professor below, forcing him to change all his friends back to normal. But what if Kevill pushes a button to fry all their minds instead? What if the man is sick enough to kill them instead of allowing them to be set free?
Brian had waited. He wanted everything to go just right.
 
#
 
As Kevill checked the rest of the lab, Josh and Madalene talked in the main office. The German explained the situation to her, that the government knew everything, that the project was over. The only thing to do now was to get Kevill to give up, something neither believed would happen.
“Don’t hurt him,” she whispered to Josh. “He means well . . . he really does. I think he might just be a little overzealous.”
“Here.” Josh pushed a syringe toward Madalene. “You’re the only one, Miss Riviera. It has to be you. He has to be controlled.”
Madalene’s eyes went wide. Her hands shook. “But you said they . . . they deteriorate or something. I don’t want that to happen to him!”
Josh touched her shoulder. “It will be fine. I believe I have a cure.”
“And the student? And his friends, the others?”
“I’ve already contacted Amber, told her to tell the others not to come. We’ll have to deal with them after Kevill. Brian? He’s upstairs. Our decoy. Once he pops up, you poke Kevill. The nanites will do the rest. Just stay—”
Just then Kevill rounded the corner, barely missing the syringe in Madalene’s hands. “Having a nice meeting?”
“Oh, Andy, I’m so concerned about the project! What will happen now?” Madalene went to Kevill and stroked his back. Josh stood against the wall.
“Rebuilding, Madie. Rebuilding . . . Josh, shoot straight with me. I’ve found spots of blood in three places now. And what’s with the deep scratches on the lab floor out there? Those couldn’t have been caused by the explosion.” He broke away from Madalene and pinned Josh against the wall with a finger to the chest.
Josh feigned confusion. “Scratches? Blood? I haven’t had a chance to look around like you, sir. We need to ask Daka when he gets back from the airport.”
“And did you get a hold of them? Are they coming? Everyone should be here anytime, right?” Kevill stepped away and approached the main computer in order to look up the inoculants and their positions. Josh moved in front of him.
“Yes. Coming, sir. Coming. Only a matter of minutes now. Miss Riviera was kind enough to tell me she would go upstairs to check, didn’t you?”
Madalene looked surprised. “Yes? Yes. I’ll go check on them, Andy. Stay here with Josh, and I’ll be right back. Key card?” She extended her well-nailed hand for Kevill’s security card, which he gave her, and trotted toward the elevator.
Once she had gone, Kevill moved over to the office’s small pedestal, the one that held the fifty gleaming-silver pendants. “Where did the cloth go that held these, Josh? Another mystery in the night, huh?”
“Yes, Herr Doctor.” Josh stared into his partner’s eyes. “A mystery.”


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