The Torus Project

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

Chapter 36 (v.1)

Submitted: February 15, 2011

Reads: 51

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Submitted: February 15, 2011



Chapter 36
10:22 a.m., Friday
Madalene exited the elevator upstairs and whispered for Brian, who popped up from his hiding place across the room.
She looked scared, her actions quirky and strange. The sight of a bloody and bandaged Brian Minor approaching surely did little to ease her situation. “I will go back down,” she said quickly. “You follow to distract him, no?”
But Brian had another question before proceeding with the plan. “Where does he have my son?”
It confused Madalene, who stepped back. “Your son? I have no idea.”
“And where is Amber?”
“She was told not to come yet, to stay away with the others.”
“But once we have Kevill down, Josh will call them in, right? To help them out?” Brian gave her a hard look, resting his hand on a nearby cubicle wall.
“I believe that is the plan, Brian. Now follow me in a few minutes.” She turned and went back to the elevator, but just as she was about the swipe the access card, the doors opened in front of her, revealing Josh and Kevill inside.
“Dear!” said Kevill, frightening Madalene. He darted past her and toward the building’s front door, followed by Josh, who shrugged. “I thought it best if I made the greetings in person. I’m the boss, you know.”
Kevill, Brian thought, seeing his nemesis arise from the lab’s depths and go to the front door. Arm throbbing, ribs aching, his first instinct was to duck back behind his desk hideaway to avoid being seen. But only a few seconds passed before Brian asked himself: Why? Why am I hiding? I hid from Kevill as a student for so long. I finally approached him but got nothing in return! And now, now he has put my whole life in danger. Brian held onto a leg of the desk, his knuckles going white, it taking all he had to keep from bolting across the room, grabbing Kevill by the neck and slamming his head against a wall. Now or never.
“Kevill!” Brian yelled, raising up and running toward the trio, who had made it as far as the corridor leading toward the building’s exit from main lab room.
Despite knowing he was there, Madalene let out a gasp. Josh hovered behind her and Kevill. The psychology professor, though, stepped up to Brian’s charge. “Oh, yes, my favorite student, Brian Minor! I should have known you were behind all this!”
As he got closer to the professor, Brian eyed Madalene, who had procured the needle, syringe, and its nanite contents. He kept running for the professor, darting between desks and monitors, kept distracting him, until . . .
“Oww! What the hell?” Kevill turned to look Madalene in the eye, rubbing his backside where she had quickly injected him. “Madie, what?”
His lover took two steps back, fear again filling her face. “I . . . I. The government, Andy. They know. They know everything!”
By this time, Brian had made it to the group and, with a rage built up toward Kevill, rammed the older man with his good arm and shoulder, knocking Kevill down. Josh stayed still.
“They know what?” Kevill seemed to have barely noticed Brian’s attack. He lay on the lab floor and pointed his questions not at Brian but rather at the impassive Josh. “Where’s Barnes? Where’s Doctor Nabouti?”
But Brian refused to be ignored. “Daka shot Doctor Montgomery, Kevill. Doctor Montgomery was the one who helped me get into the lab last night. Now, both are dead.”
Kevill’s face went blank. Putting his weight on one arm, he sat in disbelief and looked at Brian out of the corner of his eye. “Carson?” he whispered. “No.”
“Daka shot the old man. I wouldn’t have gotten here without him. But now he’s dead!”
“No. I never meant it to be like this.” Kevill frowned and shook his head. “The Torus. No violence. No.”
“Making people into machines! Forcing them to believe!” Brian, he knew, had waited to yell at his once-idol like this. He knew the rage Kevill’s actions had brought into his life. “They were my friends. You took them away! You take away. You don’t give, Doctor Kevill!”
The professor turned back to Madalene. “What?” the professor murmured. “What have you done? Me! You have hit me!”
Madalene jumped back in fear her lover would strike out at her. He rolled over and over, his ponytail swinging. Kevill slapped his buttocks and his head, getting up to his feet and spinning in circles. “Ahhh. It burns!” Madalene continued to stay away from him. “Madie. How . . . How could you? Noooo!” But just as quickly, he stopped. Kevill sat back on the floor and burst out laughing. Brian, Josh, and Madalene all gave the professor ample room, exchanging worried glances, assured the nanites had taken his brain for the worst.
For a good minute Kevill laughed. He shook. He cried. And he finally stood up like nothing had happened, even dusting himself off. “Oh, Josh. So we have been the victims all along, huh? What a catch! I see you now. You’re inoculated! Barnes was. Was Daka, too?”
Josh’s jaws clinched as he nodded, the first move from him since Brian had charged across the room.
“And I, I am also inoculated! But not like you think!” Kevill moved fast, grabbing Madalene’s wrist and tearing the syringe and needle from her grasp, making her cry out. “You can’t inoculate someone who is already infected!”
Brian stood dumbfounded. Already infected? What? The nanites they had just shot into him were having no effect? His racked body and mind allowed Kevill to make another move, forcing the needle up to her neck.
“Madie, how . . . how . . . could you?” Kevill whispered this as a secret into her ear.
“Too much, Andy,” she whispered back after some moments, craning her body to place a hand on his head to stroke it. “Too much. It consumes you. It consumed you. This . . . this Torus.” She gestured about the room with her other hand. “It is too much.
“At first, I thought how wonderful it would be. No poverty. No hunger. No war.” Tears formed in Madalene’s dark eyes and began their way down her cheeks. “But then I saw you. How it consumed you, Andy.” She sobbed and let out a small moan. “Had to stop. Had to . . .” Her voice trailed away. Kevill, eyes closed, held tight to the needle beside her neck. “But I loved,” Brian could barely hear him say, not knowing if Kevill meant Madalene or the other woman, the one lost, the one Montgomery had thought forced a grieving Kevill to his Torus deeds. “I . . . I loved.
“Back!” Kevill spat at Josh and Brian, still pressing the needle to Madalene’s throat. His eyes were bloodshot, his actions jerky. “You didn’t know about my accident, did you Josh?”
“Accident, sir?”
“When Hays died. Yeah, call them now. Call all of them to come now! I want Amber to hear this. Do it!” He reached into his pants pocket and flipped Josh his handheld computer with a free hand. “They aren’t coming, right? You told them to stay away, huh? Well, call it back on! Call Amber and have her contact the others!”
Brian wanted so badly to punch Kevill like he had Barnes earlier, but he was afraid such a move might prove fatal to Madalene. The needle was placed exactly by a throbbing artery. Why hadn’t the nanites knocked him out? Since he already had them inside? Impossible!
Josh did get a hold of Amber, who in turn told everyone the meeting was still on in thirty minutes. Pressed by Brian, Josh also discovered Wilson had been staying with Jackie and Carol.
“What now?” Josh said after hanging up, handing the handheld back to Kevill.
“Oh, why don’t you two big men have a seat? Madie and I will stay standing over here. How about a nice, little talk, hmm?”
The professor’s demeanor had not changed at all, thought Brian. His usual self. Or was this his usual self? Staring at Kevill, Brian thought back to his first psychology class with the man two years ago. Then Kevill had been much more reserved, even nerdy. No ponytail. No tan. The guy was interesting to Brian, but something had changed for his psychology professor. Yes. About a year ago. Between that first class and his second. Much more charisma. Charm.
“You were infected that day when Hays died, weren’t you, Doctor Kevill?” Brian blurted out. “You’ve had the nanites inside you all along!”
Madalene let out another gasp, for Kevill had unconsciously strengthened his hold. Smiling, the psychology professor only said, “Wait until Amber arrives, lover boy.”
But Josh couldn’t wait.  After discovering he was in fact infected as well, the German said, “But the Torus, sir. Did you have this idea before or after Hays’ death? Weren’t you and Hays really just working on low-level brain reactions?”
“Low-level reactions. Ha! How crude, Josh. How crude!” Kevill’s eyes gleamed in the low-blue light of the upstairs lab, thick arms pulled tight around his companion. “Hays was actually the first to break a barrier of integrating thought and machine! We found brain areas that could be directly influenced by outside control via nano-implants!
“But of course you know that,” he huffed. “Know that very well, huh? How did they get you? Daka? Shake your hand wrong or something?” Brian saw Kevill’s demeanor growing more and more crazy. He had said he loved Madalene, but was this any way to show it?
Josh stood calmly. “Yes. The bastard and his cigarettes, it seems. Very clever. Implants from the government lab . . . outside our loop so I couldn’t even detect myself.” His jaws flexed. “And no wonder I didn’t keep tabs on your Doctor Montgomery either.”
The name caught Kevill, wiped the sly grin off his face. “What about him? What do you mean?”
Brian knew what he meant. He stepped in. “You’re all doomed, I think is what Doctor Uhland is saying. All your nano-implants are now malfunctioning, right? They are eroding.”
“What?” barked Kevill. He briefly let the needle and syringe slip from Madalene’s neck, but the distance prevented Brian from making a move.
“He’s right,” said Josh, looking down at his black boots. “Quantum erosion. You’ve heard about it, doctor. We’ve discussed it. Now, we have it . . . inside our very brains, our quantum computer brains.”
Kevill stared at them for over ten seconds, a blank stare, and then he smiled, followed by another of his raucous laughs. “Eroding! Yes! Like Alzheimer’s or the like.” He shook his head violently and stared up at the ceiling. “We dream of the stars but are so very human. So very human.”
No one knew what to say in reply. They only sat in silence until a loud knock at the lab’s front door broke the trance.
“Ah, time to bring our brave new world through the entrance . . . or is it the exit, huh?” Kevill pushed Madalene in front of him toward the hallway, motioning with his head for Josh and Brian to lead the way. “Let’s see what our other inoculants have to say about all this! Josh, let them in, but any funny business and I will get violent.”
Madalene started crying. “No, Andy. You wouldn’t! Josh said he could cure us. It’s all the government’s fault! You can get better!”
Brian stood halfway down the corridor toward the exit, Kevill and Madalene at the intersection where the hallway broke into the larger room. As Josh unlocked the door, Kevill said, “Cure? He fed you that bullshit? How do you suppose we separate all the nanotechnology from their neural nets? The stuff’s so intertwined it’s become one!”
Brian slumped and exhaled a long breath. They can’t get better? They’re destined to die or fade away to senility? Did they get Wilson, too? His thoughts hovered on despair when Josh fully opened the main door, allowing in a blast of sunshine and the worried look of Amber in the doorway.
She looked beautiful. The late-morning sun rimmed her figure and shone through her hair. Brian saw the smile, and all felt a little better. Behind her, a smaller figure pushed his way up front. And Brian could also make out others in the parking lot as well.
The voice. Wilson was here, and nothing could stop Brian from going to his son. “Wilson. Here I am, guy!” He rushed forward in anticipation.
“Forget about me?” cried Kevill. He slung Madalene away and tossed the needle and syringe into the recesses of the lab behind him. “Since we’re all here now, I don’t need such petty instruments.” 
He pulled the small computer out of his pants pocket again and began to press buttons. Before Brian had a chance to reunite with Wilson, Amber’s smile disappeared, replaced by a frown and a look of determination. She blocked Brian’s way and pulled his son back toward the others through the door, his small legs flailing as he went.
“No!” said Brian, looking back at Josh, Madalene, then Kevill. He pressed on. Now outside, the sunlight momentarily blinded Brian. Hands touched him from all sides, bringing him down to the pavement; weight on his ribs and wounded arm and shoulder made him scream out in pain. “Wilson!”
“Bring him back in,” Brian heard Kevill say. His eyes refocused to see Amber, Jackie, Mike, and Dr. Romber carrying him back through the door. Carol and some others he had never seen—an older man and a group of older ladies—followed them and shut the door. Is that the university’s president?
“Brian,” said Kevill, “you’ve been a bad boy. Let’s takeyou downstairs. You and Madalene and that son of yours. Time to bring the three of you into the Torus.”

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