вторник, 29 января 2013 г.

DISINTEGRATION

Chapter VII 

The Morning Celestro Played Games


The next morning Arone showed up for work at Rawotzki's mansion much earlier than she was supposed to, but Celestro was already waiting for her in the poinsettia room. She entered, and one look was enough for Celestro to understand that she believed every word he'd told her the day before. Arone was pale and, clearly, had hardly slept, if at all. The moment she looked at Celestro tears filled her eyes, but she wiped them off quickly and sat down.

"How is he?" Celestro asked making her a glass of martini.


"He's everything you said, Lester," she said in a broken voice. "He's been on relaxer and in the oxygen room, but I still could hear him screaming from pain. Tell me how to get this damn thing out of him."


"First, there is something you have to know."


Celestro was about to explain everything when Causse Gantier entered the room.


"Mr. Rawotzki, you have a visitor." The concierge wore his sweetest face.


"Whoever this is, they can wait, I'm in the middle of a meeting." Rawotzki waved Causse off, but the concierge didn't move.


"The visitor is insisting on seeing you immediately. Asian affairs."


Celestro gave Gantier an intense look, then turned to Arone.


"Look, it's Ford's rep, they must be investigating for personnel connections. They can't see you here."


"But..."


"Please, just trust me, I'll deal with them in no time and be back. Go wait for me in the office. If they see you talking to me, it won't look too good for Mike."


Arone nodded, took her glass and headed for the office. Celestro followed Causse through the opening and almost bumped into Sakura.


"What the hell are you doing here, Asian Affairs?" Celestro hissed, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her along the marble corridor and into a small guest room.


"You could have told me you were going to talk to Arone today, and my visit wouldn't have been so unexpected." She freed herself of his grasp and looked at him with her bright almond eyes. 


"If you must know, I wasn't secretly avoiding you." Celestro smoothed his neon jacket. "I just didn't think it was necessary. I’m not the one who’s hiding facts, remember? And just for the sport of it, how did you know I was going to talk to her, anyway? My security's pristine."


"Don't worry, your security is good.
And I wasn't spying on you, don't look at me like that!"
Sakura made herself comfortable in one of the luxury blue leather armchairs that surrounded a solid round mahogany table with flared moldings and tapered legs. The top of the table was gracefully shaped to match the backs of the armchairs. "I called Arone to ask how she was doing after our last session, she was crying and asked to call me back because she was about to have a very important meeting. So, I took a wild guess."

Celestro relaxed a little and sat down at the wooden coffee table - the only table that didn't hover in the house. The guest room looked very different from the rest of the house, it was like a piece of a museum. Celestro was a connoisseur of exquisite old furniture. The walls were painted ochre and covered with pictures in elegant wooden frames exhibiting marine landscapes by Homer, Dabo, T.R.Smith and Aivazovsky, and among those - a huge window, decorated with a golden portiere curtain incorporating a field of azure and gold poinsettias. One could see only outside through the window, but the protection screen around the house still let the sunlight in. The room looked posh in its glitter and luxury; it made Celestro feel royal.

Sakura smiled in that warm cheerful way a mother smiles at her child seeing him come home from school. He knew she liked the room too.

"Let's not make your guest wait for too long," she said. Celestro's essie earring flicked, and he invited Gantier in with an annoyed "yes". The concierge entered with a tray of tea and sugar, then bowed and left.


"He likes you, Miss Takano." Celestro winked at her.


"Everybody likes me, brother, even you. Most of the time. I'm a nice person." 
Sakura took a sip of tea and closed her almond-shaped eyes from pleasure. "This is so good, I should come for tea more often."

"You said you wanted to tell me something important." Celestro started to get impatient.


"Yes. Well." She put the cup back on the tray. "As you know, the moment you get the blocker out, Microsoft will get confused and hence vulnerable. Memories will come back in a flood, he won't be able to discern facts from conclusions, given what he already knows. The story Arone told him about sleeping with you will mess with his brain, because he'll have to deal with two versions of one truth."


"Yeah, about that. You could have mentioned he learned the big secret, don't you think?"

Sakura tilted his head, patronizing him again. "You'd only have worried more. I dealt with it, I'm good at my job as you know."

"Fine. What are you saying?"


"I'm saying he'll need guidance."


"Right. That's when I come in."


"What? No!" Sakura looked at him in horror. "You can't show your face yet."


"Why not?" 


Sakura got into her soothing therapeutic mode. "Listen to me. I've spent the last five years talking to this couple, together and separately. I know exactly how Mike feels about you, and trust me, it's light-years far from affection. If you interfere, his memories will be aggravated by his hatred to you, we need to guide him to remember things exactly how we want him to."

"What do you mean? Can we change his actual memories? No, wait, wait...what do you mean 'we'?"


"First of all, his memories can't be changed, but there are plenty of ways to shift his focus, change his attitude, work with his feelings. And answering your second question, who's better at this job than his own therapist? Besides, Arone told me about the blocker herself, I earned her trust."


"Oh, that woman just can't keep her mouth shut." Celeslro rolled his perfectly shaped eyes. “Unlike you, though. That’s the second important thing I’ve learned only now. Anything else I missed?”


"You know I have a gift of getting information out of people. And no, there is nothing else."


"You're a marvel, sis, always were, always will be."


"Good to hear a nice thing from you once in a while, even if it’s sarcasm."


"Come on! I am nice! I'm the nicest person on earth." Celestro nudged her shoe with his boot.


"Yes, the most delusional too." Sakura kicked him back, and they laughed and their conversation drifted away from Arone and Microsoft. They were teens again, talking nonsense and picking on each other, and laughing. Celestro's favorite memories of his foster years. The time for her to go came too quickly, but she didn't stall. She never did.


"Convince her to use my help, I'll take care of the rest."


Celestro called Gantier and ordered him to see his step-sister off, while he headed for the office, where Arone was waiting for him.

He came in and found her sleeping on a hoverchair. Coming closer, he pushed the chair slightly. It floated, carrying her tired beautiful body effortlessly around the room, her milky light dress moved up her legs a little, fluttering. Celestro enjoyed the sight for a while, then caught the chair, waking her up.


"I'm sorry, I must have dosed off," she whispered, struggling to keep her eyes open.


Celestro made a couple of slides on his SC bracelet, stretched his hand and beckoned. The dark glass covering the wall from floor to ceiling slid aside and a tray with a cup of coffee on it hovered towards his open hand. He took the cup and sent the tray back.


"Here, drink this. We need to finish our talk, so you could get home as quickly as you can. What's his excuse at work?"


"He's been given a sleep-in day." Arone was getting visually better with every swig of coffee royale, redolent with memories.


"We have to finish this fast." Celestro was talking half to himself. "Headaches aren't exactly a common thing now, Ford's people might get suspicious if his migraines last. If they haven't already. Good thing Mike has the reputation of a technology hater, so stress can actually work as an excuse."


"You told me I had to know something first. What is it?"


Celestro pulled another hoverchair under himself. He started speaking slowly, careful not to miss anything.


"Once the blocker's out, the headaches won't stop right away. But you don't have to worry, they will get milder, and as soon as he remembers all, they will go away completely.  The memories will start coming back chaotically, and he will struggle to understand what's real and what's not. And now that he knows one fact from what is blocked, your version will conflict with everything he'll remember and he'll need guidance."


Celestro stopped and looked away, thinking.


"What? Something's wrong?" Arone's hand involuntarily moved towards the rim of her dress, eager to be occupied with something, but Celestro caught it half-way and looked Arone in the eyes.


"Nothing. I just...You know, I wish you had finished the med school, it would be so much quicker with a professional."


Arone didn't seem to understand, so Celestro went on.


"He should have someone to help him remember, keep his thoughts on track. A therapist would make the process quick and painless."


"Um..."


Celestro raised his eyebrows. "Yes?"


"I think...I'm not sure, but...I might have someone."


"Arone, you know you can't trust anyone with this."


"Yes, but she...our couple counselor...I might have mentioned the blocker to her."


Celestro closed his eyes with a loud 'oh-no' sigh and let go of her hand. Arone hurried to explain. "Please, don't be mad. She can be trusted, she knew the story with me sleeping with you and she never let me down, not once. It's been five years, I bet she can help."


"Do you understand that we'll have to let this therapist of yours in on the whole story?" Celestro's tone turned dark and almost threatening. "She'll know everything."


"She's a friend," insisted Arone, "I can talk to her. If you're worried she'll get scared to keep this kind of information, then think better about it. She's not going to be putting herself at risk, she's a senior therapist, and as far as I know, they have immunity. They aren't even allowed to testify in court. She won't tell anyone, and nobody will ever be able to legally extract this information from her."


"I've always admired how smart you are, Arone." Celestro brightened up a little. "Still, I'd rather be safe than sorry. What's her name?"


"Sakura Takano."


"Takano...Doesn't ring a bell. What center is she in?"


"Better Enterprise."


Celestro switched his SC on and waited for a couple of seconds before speaking.


"Rawotzki here. Need a quick check on a Sakura Takano from Better Enterprise...Check her background: any undesirable connections, criminal record, reputation flaws, the usual. See if she can be trusted. Flick me in five."


While he was talking, Arone examined the last drops of coffee rolling inside her cup.


"Want some more?" Celestro smiled, catching her absent-minded look.


"No, thank you. But I'm sure the call's just a waste of time. Her reputation is impeccable, I'm actually surprised you don't know her, she's the best in the city."


"Well, I don't really need couple counselors, do I."


The remark sounded cold and almost reproachful, but the SC flicked before Arone could make any comments.


"Yes, I'm listening...Good, thank you. You're a marvel. Always were, always will be." 


Arone raised her eyebrow at the last remark, but couldn't but look pleased with herself and was actually smiling for the first time that morning. 
"Sounds like you might need a couple counselor after all," she said.

"I certainly would like to think it's jealousy, but I guess it's just the return of Missis Irony."

"Frankly? I couldn't care less about your private life, because mine is pretty much a mess right now. So, are you going to tell me how to get the blocker out?"


Celestro tried to hide an inevitable smirk of self-content and fished a small black chip out of his pocket.


"Here's the unblocker, it will reprogram the chip in his head." He gave her the tiny board to her. "We can't let Mike know how he lost his memory, so make sure the therapist makes him believe it was some kind of a psychotic break or shock that made him forget everything. You just have to insert this into his relaxer and do the usual 5-minute session, the blocker is organic, it will self-destruct and dissolve in his system. He'll be unconscious for a couple of hours, maybe less. Talk to the therapist and have her ready to see him as soon as he wakes up. And don't lose the thing, it cost me a fortune to get it off-market."


"I'm not sure our house is safe, since he is--" Arone started, but broke off mid-sentence.


"Since he's what?" asked Celestro, squinting at her.


Arone bit her lip. "Since he is working for Ford. Don't they have their employees under surveillance?"


"It's not exactly legal." Celestro was hardly convinced by her innocent act. "Anyway, therapists must have those devices they use for home visits to make the session private. That should keep all curious ears out."


"Good, then. I'd better go."


Arone returned the cup to Celestro, and he could swear she was avoiding touching his fingers. She left the office in a hurry.


Watching her disappear behind the opening, Celestro leaned back and spun the empty cup between his fingers.

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