The Torus Project

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

Chapter 4 (v.1)

Submitted: February 04, 2011

Reads: 65

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Submitted: February 04, 2011

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Chapter 4
7:30 a.m., Sunday
As any day, Wilson awoke early, something Brian wasn’t ready for.
“I’m hungry, Dad. Come on!”
After much prodding, Dad got up and fixed them some sugary cereal for breakfast. But Brian was tired. His head spun from recent events. Amber had left at a decent hour; nevertheless, the emotional sharing, the new relationship, and yesterday’s time spent soaking in nanotechnology all had combined to wipe him out.
“Dad, I want to go to the park!” Wilson came off as a pushy little bugger today as well, which didn’t help Brian’s mood. 
Sometimes on Sunday he would attempt to dress them up and go to church, but not today. In Nebraska, he had grown up Baptist, with Sunday school and church camps. And Wilson’s grandparents on both sides called at least once a week to make sure Brian was doing the same—“Are you reading him the Bible?”, “Are you taking him to Sunday School?” They weren’t major religious zealots or anything; they were just concerned for and missed Wilson, who lived so far away. Brian understood. He really wanted the best for his son as far as religion went, but the more he got into the “freethinking” college environment, the more difficult it was to accept the teachings he had grown up with. So what was he to do with his son? How should God and Jesus and the Bible come up when he himself wasn’t even sure anymore? It was a difficult situation that became more and more difficult as Wilson grew older, as each Sunday came and went, and Brian knew that he had not fully tackled the issue.
Just another thing to worry about, he thought to himself while putting away the cereal and washing the dishes.
“Okay, Wil. The park it is.” Heck, he thought, I’d rather we go meet God in the park on this nice day than mess with the clothes and Bibles anyway. A twinge of guilt hit him after that thought, probably coming from his mom—a strong, petite farmwoman with conservative values. Or Rebecca.
The kiss. Rebecca, I’m sorry about the kiss.
“Cool!” said Wilson, one of his favorite words. “Can we ride bikes?”
The nearby park was pleasant since bikers could have their own lane and not fear running over the walkers and joggers. A playground sat in the park’s middle, full of slides and log-type climbing. They also liked to play Frisbee and practice t-ball.
“Sounds good, Wil.” Brian thought of talking to an adult friend to discuss Amber and his guilty feelings about cheating on Rebecca. Jackie was out, though, considering how he had ignored her friend Carol on Friday night. “Hey, would you like to have a friend of mine ride bikes with us?”
“A friend?”
“Yeah . . . Mike. You remember Mike. He’s been over a few times. A reallynice guy. I’ll call right now and see if he can come.”
“Okay.” Wilson didn’t care much who came just so long as they went. Brian was glad he was showing an interest in something other than his video games for once, too.
 
#
 
Mike was in the middle of running an experiment in Montor Hall when Brian called him, something about testing freshmen to see if they could remember objects and colors and their locations in respect to each other. “The blue hippo is to the right of the red eraser” or something like that. They were either tested immediately after a long list of these colored pairs were given or a week later to see how many were remembered. Brian had to remember to ask Mike what the point was. Mike expected the last test to be wrapped up in an hour and agreed to meet them at the park soon after. That gave Brian and Wilson time to get ready and spend some quality father-son minutes together.
With the day shaping up so well, Brian noticed many students and family units had decided typical church hours simply didn’t fit their schedules this morning either. With Brian’s mountain bike and Wilson’s training-wheel bike, the pair rode past well-manicured bushes and trees fitted with bird feeders. Remembering his nanotechnology research, he wondered if, one day, little machines couldn’t keep up the lawn, biting away blade and limb.
The boy had only started riding in recent months and loved the freedom it gave him. Helmet and pads were a given, but Brian had also stocked his son’s bike with a digital horn that sounded like a sick goose and a flashy handlebar that shimmered in the sunlight. Wilson wanted his bike to replicate Dad’s. He liked it, and that’s all that mattered.
They had raced around for a while and were taking a break when Mike finally showed.
“Hey, Mike!”
Mike wore jeans and his usual Hawaiian shirt. His vehicle, also a mountain bike, skidded to a halt in front of Brian and Wilson.
“Hey. Sorry to keep you waiting. I had to compile some results before I left.”
I wonder if his shirt was one of the objects in the experiment? Brian thought. “No problem. Mike, you remember Wilson. Wilson, Mike goes to school with me.”
“Hey, partner!” Mike flipped sunglasses onto his red head and gave Wilson a handshake. “I hear a lot about you!” “Neat bike!” Wilson said and started riding down the trail with his bobbing, over-sized helmet and fast-peddling feet.
“So what’s up?” Mike asked Brian, a mischievous look on his face reading, “So did you score with the brunette yet?”
“Not much, really.” Brian knocked some dirt off his boots, his eyes squinting in the sun. “Hell, actually, I’ve got a bunch going on, Mike. That’s part of the reason I invited you out here today.”
“Glad you invited me. Wilson’s life seems simpler than yours right now. Am I right?”
Brian looked after his son, who was quickly escaping, and started riding his own bike, getting Mike to follow. The wide, cement path ran through a field of green grass, where a man and his child were flying a kite. Brian looked up to see the multi-colored plastic flitting about the sky—so carefree, yet also, he realized, firmly tied to the ground.
“He is . . . I mean it is . . . Remember Amber from the other night?”
“How could I forget?” Mike flashed a grin and flipped back down his sunglasses. “The chick’s a babe, man, and she really seems to dig you!”
“I know. And get this . . . we exchanged numbers, and the girl called to see what I was doing last night!”
“So . . . were you busy for the dream girl or what?”
“Are you kidding me?” Brian said. “She came over, we baked cookies, she even gave Wilson a video game.”
“And?”
“And. She seems to like me.”
Mike stared at this friend for a moment and burst out laughing. “Well, you stupid. What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, I guess, but you don’t think it’s kinda weird, her just introducing herself to us like that at Sam’s and calling me up and practically inviting herself over and all?”
“What? Are you crazy? Don’t question the luck! Hell, philosophy major’s are a little quirky like that anyway . . . you either roll with their punches or not, I hear.”
Brian still kept a close eye on Wilson, who had veered off the well-marked path in a failed attempt to catch some ducks. Seeing his dad, he came back with a big grin and peddled onward.
“Plus, Mike. I kissed her.” Brian pushed his hair back, felt his face get hotter than the sun was making it. “You might be the ladies man, but I haven’t . . . well . . . been with as many women since Rebecca died. We kissed.”
“Good for you!”
“It was nice. But it wasn’t nice. I mean. I feel so guilty. And what do I say to Wilson? The guy’s been upbeat and all, but I see the looks, the sadness.  He’s not stupid. He remembers and wonders.”
Mike stopped riding. Brian did, too. “That’s a hard one. But they say you gotta move on. Right? Maybe this is a good thing. Take it as it comes, eh?”
“Yeah. I just don’t want to screw things up. These feelings, you know.”
“Forget it, Brian. If she wants to take control right now, let her.” Mike pushed his glasses up once more. “I mean, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I haven’t seen you out with a girl since I met you. I’d say have some fun. Try to relax. Hell, maybe she’s even into that Eastern philosophy and Kama Sutra stuff!”
“Huh?”
“You know, East Indian sex. They wrote a whole book on the thing!”
“Mike! You crazy dog!”
Wilson circled back up with the team.
“Dad, I’m thirsty. I want a super-freeze!” The local mini-mart was just around the corner from their apartment and next to the park, and Brian and Wilson often went there for last-minute shopping. A super-freeze drink had become Wilson’s favorite.
“Sounds good, Wil. Mike, you wanna tag along?”
“Got nothing better to do.”
Getting drinks at the mini-mart, Brian changed subjects on Mike. “You know a good deal about research and what goes in Montor, right?”
“Oh, I guess. You know I pretty much live there.” Mike had selected a banana-cola-watermelon suicide super-freeze. Brian, though, had gone with the simple cherry-flavored drink. Wilson had his favorite blueberry, which made him laugh at his blue tongue later onin the mirror back home.
“I was wondering . . . you remember me mentioning trying to see Doctor Kevill after class on Friday?”
“And he blew you off, right?”
“Right.” Brian frowned at the memory. He took a slurp of his drink and headed for the register. “You also remember me talking about how I overheard him on his holo, though, saying something about nans? And then Carol said nans probably meant nanotechnology?”
“I think so. I was a little beer heavy on Friday. Sorry.”“No problem. I was just wondering, though, if you could do me a favor. I did some research on nans and such yesterday and found it to be pretty interesting stuff. Actually, I was thinking about giving it a shot for my senior thesis.”
“Really?”
“Yep. Could you see if Doctor Kevill or any other psych faculty have backgrounds in the subject? Or do you have any access to experiments in other departments, like Computing Science?”
“Well.” Mike turned his back to the register and fiddled with his super-freeze, lowering his voice some. “As an undergrad, I’m not suppose to have access to anything the grads and faculty give me, but a lazy post-grad dude let me . . . or should I say ‘told me?’ . . . to compile his results on the computer . . . and the other day I noticed that the same access code this dude gives me also gives me access to the info you’re asking about.”
“Cool! So could you, like, print it out? Or email me? Do a search or something on nanotechnology? I’ll even give you some search terms when we get back to the apartment. I just want to hook up with a likely faculty member. This way it would be a lot quicker.”
“No problem, man.”
“Great. Thanks!”
 
#
 
Driving toward the project lab, Kevill talked to Amber, who was in her apartment, via his speakerphone. “So things went well last night, my dear?” His voice was placating, innocent. “Sure, Doctor Kevill. Brian’s a nice guy. I don’t think he’s up to any mischief, like you seem to think. Just a student struggling to get by, for all I could see.” Amber, Kevill could tell, wasn’t in the mood for a chat, so he kept it brief.“Well, I’m glad you two made a connection. I just want to remind you, dear, that you are wrapped up in the project just as much as I.” His tone became more forceful. “We are doing a beautiful thing . . . your father would have thought so.” “Yes, Doctor Kevill. I’d appreciate it, though, if you didn’t bring up my father.”
“Sure, Amber. In any case, have fun with this Brian boy, but just remember our overall goals . . . we don’t need a distraction right now.”
Amber sighed. “I understand . . . I’m just a little cranky this morning. My time of the month and all.”
“Oh, please, you don’t have to explain, my dear.” He paused as he drove into the lot of the building that housed his project. “But I’m sure Madalene would love to see you again . . . maybe dinner sometime this week?”
“Sounds all right. I’ll check my schedule. I am just a student, you know, and do have finals.”
“Yes, how easily I forget. Well, One with the Torus, my dear?”
“One with the Torus.”
“Kevill out.”
Kevill, dressed in jeans and an oversized t-shirt that read “OU Sooners”, had come to work as usual again today. Weekends were not meant to relax but rather to do without the hassle of others around. He had coaxed his partner Josh into the basement lab today as well to work.
The two met in a low-ceilinged office next to the main research room and its tower of light. Like other campus buildings that Kevill had visited, this one ran smoothly with precise air and heating conditions and enough space to move around. However, the upstairs lighting was kept at a low mixture of blue to better suit their research purposes. A dry-erase board covered one office wall, and opposite, some 15 meters away, thick glass allowed vision into the larger, main lab and its bright-white light beam. Everything was kept very clean, the glass and other surfaces scrubbed often to a shine. The effect was of another world, making one forget he stood some 40 meters below the surface in hard, Oklahoma clay.
Josh, at six feet in height, wore jeans and a tight-fit black shirt that showed off his trim, muscular frame. He sat next to a long, gray, metal table that housed a built-in holographic projection device. Without a desk, the room held only the table, a few chairs, shelves, and a lightweight pedestal in the far corner away from the entrance.
Kevill, next to his partner, also focused on the holo projection that hovered in mid-air, its beam from a two-centimeter-diameter hole in the tabletop next to an inset computer. Holography wasn’t a new technology, but many more research facilities were using it due to advances in software and the ability to see things in three dimensions, zooming in and out for finer detail.
“What are Amber’s parameters?” Kevill stepped back and leaned against the wall behind Josh and next to the office door, seeming to examine his nails.
The German poked at a keyboard he hadslipped from under the table to bring up a profile of Amber Hays, aged 21. The ghostly image filled the air in front of the two men. Among other things, the hologram displayed her height, weight, blood type, blood pressure, and various other health readings. “Pretty low, Doctor Kevill. You specified yourself to place her on a long leash.”
“Yes, yes,” Kevill huffed. He went to the hologram and pointed into air at the number in question, which represented the nanoparticle activity in her brain. “Let’s raise this to point two – zero.”
Josh raised his eyebrows. “You know that will knock her out for a day or more with flu-like symptoms, stomach ache, headaches.” He understood some of Amber and Dr. Kevill’s background but not much, only enough to know that Kevill’s actions were a bit odd. They had always acted like father and daughter around him.
“Yes, I know. Unfortunately, recent events have prompted me to make such a determination.” He sat down with a thud.
“She’s not . . . how do you say? . . . spilling the beans?” Josh asked in his German accent.
“Oh, no.” Kevill reached over and patted Josh on his muscular back. “We just need to let her understand the project’s importance, that’s all. Young, impressionable youth are that way, you see.”
“Ah, huh.” He made the adjustments to Amber’s profile.
“Very good. Now, tell me about our friend Mister Barnes and the D-O-D.” Kevill got up again to walk around the office, gazing out the wall window. “You scanned the area, I assume, for listening devices? Monitors?”
“Done. I’ve learned to sweep as he’s here. They are a sharp group, Doctor Kevill, but nothing I can’t handle.” He showed a quick smile.
Kevill believed him. That’s why he had been recruited. Not only proficient in computers and nanotechnology, Josh also had connections in the digital/electronics field, which had served the project well in past months.
“Excellent,” Kevill said and then more to himself, “Those bastards don’t really know what they have. Enemies, armor, mind-control . . . all they can think about is continuing the conflicts that have leveled our planet for thousands of years!” He sat back down and focused on Amber’s profile hovering in the middle of the room, his large head resting on his hands, a slow, melancholy look filling his face.
“Doctor?” Josh prodded after about a minute of silence.
Kevill quickly rattled his head. “Just thinking. Always thinking, you know.” He jumped out of his meditation and paced the room again. “And how is our other test subject doing, old Doctor Fratameier?”
Fratameier had been the project’s first full-blown human subject apart from Amber. An “inoculant”—Kevill’s term for anyone administered the nanotechnology against the disease of old beliefs and ways of thinking.
“Stabilized since his bout with the flu last month.” Josh brought Fratameier’s profile up on holo. “Immune system decreased by 10% after inoculation but has since regained 14% of that.”
“Too slow,” said Kevill. “Too slow.”
“Good news is he makes progress intellectually and socially.” Josh brought up an article from a newspaper on the holo. “Like this. Interview in last week’s Oklahoma Daily. Demonstrated an active and happy man. . . And . . .” He brought up a few pictures, evidently taken without Fratameier’s knowledge. “ . . . the previous hermit now hosts a regular party at his house.”
“A party, you say?” said Kevill, shifting his attention to his partner. “I didn’t know about this.”
“Well, not your average college bash, Herr Doctor. More of a social get together.”
His eyebrows raised. “Department slugs exchanging ideas?”
“Um.” Josh paused, leaned back in his chair, and grinned. “Not quite so sublime. He’s started a club of sorts . . . they, uh, make quilts.”
“Quilts! You mean blankets and stuff?”
“Kind of, yes.”
“Oh.” Kevill’s chubby cheeks filled up with air and exhaled. “Well, if he’s happy, I’m happy, too. But my little plan of world domination is not going to work if every inoculant gives more interviews and starts to knit, for goodness sake!”
Kevill ran fingers through graying hair, untying his ponytail for once and allowing the hair to flow freely onto his shoulders.
“Look. We need to speed up production, if you’ll forgive the term. And our inoculants need to be inspired to do more than knit. Their boundaries need to be opened more so that others around them will catch the meme.”
“Meme, sir?”
“Ideas, Josh, ideas!” He pounded the table once with his fist. “A meme is an idea that spreads like a germ. From mind to mind, it catches on. We need our meme, our Torus, to be spread like that because there’s no way we can step up production enough. No way our three-some team is going to inoculate enough before the feds want things done on their side! That means the money’s cut off.” He knifed a hand across his throat. “It’s arithmetically impossible unless we take bolder steps.”
“Okay.” Josh was waiting for the instructions that said “more work”. “What do you have in mind, doctor? Inoculants taking on the role of spreading the . . . meme . . . themselves? Isn’t our technology the meme?”
“Yes, yes.” Kevill paused. “For one, this knitting group might not be such a bad thing. What about a group inoculation, Josh? Would that overload the parameter set?”
“Well, I’ve thought about the possibility and have even run a set of schematics.” The German brought up a new set of holo-displayed projections into the room, forcing Kevill to sit down in front of the table. “From a low of two to a high of 50, but the more in the group, you know, the less immediate control we have.”
“I’m sure.” Kevill examined the projections in front of him. “Run a schematic for Fratameier’s knittinggroup and get back to me tonight.”
“No problem. Anything else?”
“Yes.” Kevill got up, stretched, and pushed a key on the computer, one he already knew what holo projection would produce.
“Our next inoculant,” he nodded at the 3-D picture of a graying man in his early fifties, dressed in suit and tie.
“Him, sir?” Josh clinched his jaw in rapid succession.
“No better person to spread our meme, don’t you think?”


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