пятница, 22 марта 2013 г.


Chapter X

The Night of Revelations

Microsoft looked around - white walls in the dim light felt foreign and distant, a dark monster with shining eyes lurked in the corner. Microsoft was afraid to move. He was struggling to remember what had happened before he blacked out, but myriads of images, people, words swarmed in his head without making any sense. The monster moved, the shining eyes blinked off, and it started to morph into the shape of a woman.
"Am I dead?" Microsoft wheezed out.
"You are certainly not, Mr. Stevenson." Sakura clicked something on her air display and the surroundings started to lighten up slowly. Microsoft squinted and realized he was in his Oxygen room. He sat up with a jerk, but collapsed again, powerlessly spreading his legs on the floor.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, panting. 

Sakura swept the display back into her SC and moved closer to Microsoft.
"Stop it," she said, watching his pointless attempts to get up. "You've over-relaxed  these things happen when you use your earplugs too much."
"What are you doing here?"
"Arone called me, she said you needed my help."
"What, I'm a psycho now?"
"Do you think you are?"
He turned his eyes to the wall. "Obviously my partner does. And she's wrong, I don't need your help."
"Microsoft, you are starting to remember things and it's very easy for you to mix dreams with reality, your ideas with what really happened."
"I told you I don't need a shrink, I'm fine." 
"Name a flower.
"Name a flower," she said adding insistance to her tone of voice like a drop of amaretto to a cup of coffee.
"I don't have to name anything, it's my home, I don't want you here, I'll be fine by myself!"
"Flower, Mr. Stevenson." 
"For Chrysler's sake, Poinsettia! Can you leave me alone now?"
Microsoft flinched - shouting made the aching stronger. But Sakura didn't move.
"Why?" Her tone was leveled.
Microsoft felt the tender buzz of a memory.
"The orchard...in Rawotzki's house." He scoffed. "So? You know what happened because Arone told you."
"Did she tell you?"
"Of course she did, how else would I know?"
"When did she tell you?"
"I don't know...it was...it was when..."
Sakura's face was calm, expectant. He struggled to remember when Arone mentioned the orchard and the flowers, but couldn't, however the orchard stood vividly in his mind, waving red and cream petals at him.
"She didn't..." he said, astonished at his own words.
"I can help you, I want to help you. Please, let me."
Microsoft sighed and scrambled his aching body up to his elbows, wincing with every movement, then dragged himself backwards.
"Whatever..." He finally propped himself up against the wall, and sighed again with relief.
Sakura made herself comfortable beside him. "Let's start with what you know for sure. Tell me why you came to the city.
"I was in and out of foster families, the last one sent me here to study design. You know all that, why should I--"
"It's not for me, it's for you. Please go on. Do you remember how you met Arone?"
Microsoft smiled. "Oh, yes I do. When I was in my last year she transferred to our college and as soon as we met she offered to do the graduation project together. She was amazing... Full of life, full of ideas. We were designing those air-huds for i-contacts, you know, the heads-up displays like on cars and stuff. Her panorama view was ingenious  I'm telling you, I'd never met anyone like her. I couldn't spend an hour without talking to her."

Microsoft stopped for a moment cherishing the memories. For a moment he felt relaxed and quiet, as if Sakura was not there at all.
"What happened after you graduated?"
"Well, she was noticed by the teachers and recommended, she got the position in this huge design company where she's working now. I couldn't get any designer job here because of the quorum, so I was offered a couple of jobs in the south, but I didn't want to be far away from her, so I was in and out of jobs for a while, then freelanced. We started living together, I worked mostly from home. Then one day--" Microsoft stopped mid-sentence, frowned, and his face darkened.
"What happened one day?" 
"I...I think I got a position at Ford's. Arone came home and said she had a job offer from ... no... it wasn't from Ford, or was it?"
"Is it a pleasant memory?"
"No, I don't think so."
"But you told me once that working for Ford was the best thing that had ever happened to you. Was it?"
"Yes, yes, it still is..."
"So, it's a different memory then, it must have happened earlier. Try to remember what Arone told you when she came home."
"She said she had a job offer... Oh, no..." Microsoft buried his face in his hands. "A job offer from Rawotzki."
Microsoft started trembling, shaking his head. These new memories couldn't be a part of his life.
"No, no," he mumbled into his palms. "It can't be true... it can't..."
"Microsoft, look at me." Sakura touched the back of his hands lightly, but he didn't stop muttering and shaking his head. Sakura waited for a little while before she started speaking.
"Microsoft, you can't run from your past, the memories are coming back and you can't stop them. But it's already behind you, you have a new life now and your past won't take it from you. They are just memories."
"Where is it coming from? What happened to me?"
"I'll explain everything to you, but first--"
Sakura didn't finish the sentence, because she was banged against the wall and pinned to it with huge force, Microsoft's hand clasped on her neck.
"You will explain everything now," he hissed into her ear. "What game are you playing? What was done to me?"
"Let me go," she whispered.
"No!" He pushed her harder. "Tell me what's going on!"
"Let me go, and I'll tell you." She was calm and composed as she always was when he got angry. It worked as usual. Microsoft let go of her and leaned away, embarrassed and a little confused.
"It's called psychogenic amnesia," Sakura said, coughing. "Sometimes stress can affect our brain so much, that the most painful episodes from our life get erased from our memory. The disorder may last from several hours to several years."
"I don't understand." Microsoft took his place at the wall again. "There weren't many stressful episodes in my life. Not that strong."
"You may not remember them. The one Arone told you about, for example."
"It doesn't make any sense... why didn't she tell me everything?"
"It might have confused you. She mentioned some facts, but you have to remember everything yourself. Do you want to know what you forgot?"
"I think I do."
"Then tell me about this offer to work for Rawotzki."
Microsoft thought for a moment and started talking.
"I remember...Arone came home excited, she said Celestro Rawotzki, who was working as Ford's assistant at the time,  was going to launch his own business and had offered a huge project of office design. Then...then Rawotzki sent a car for us, we met in a private restau-bar outside the city. He was very...enthusiastic...he had seen our graduation project presentation and wanted to buy the patent from the college..."
"What did you talk about?"
"I...I'm not sure." Microsoft closed his eyes and frowned, rearranging the new memories in his head. He could hear calm music, several voices around. There was Rawotzki, gesturing excitingly as he was explaining his vision of the new business. "Work, mostly," he said finally. "He told us a lot about the new projects he had in mind. He wanted me to help Arone off the books. I agreed because the money was good and the challenge was too irresistible... He wanted us to design everything from scratch."
"Did you feel good about it?"
"I...did," Microsoft said after a moment of hesitation. "I can remember I did...we've become... friends. I can't believe these are my memories. We were actually friends!"
Microsoft turned to Sakura with a puzzled look. She smiled.
"What happened next?"
Microsoft strained to put together his evasive thoughts.
"I'm not sure... It's all blurry... we were meeting in some strange distant places... discussing projects... There was this house... a big one... with displays on the walls."
"The Rawotzki's mansion?"
"Yes, yes, right! We met there... we were writing messages on paper... it was fun."
"Was there any particular day that was different?"
"There might be one... it was late and he flicked me and said he wanted to talk to me. There was something important he had to say. Then a car picked me up and dropped me off at the mansion."
"Were you alone?"
"I think so... the concierge left and we were alone. Rawotzki showed me some papers..."
"What was in them?"
"I... no, it can't be true..." Microsoft started shaking his head again. "This makes absolutely no sense."
"What was in the papers, Microsoft?"
He didn't speak for a moment, just sat there, mouthing curses and squeezing his eyes shut, as memories were arranging themselves in comprehensible images in his head. When he finally started talking, his voice sounded desolate and tired. 
"It was the waiver of parental rights... signed by Ford... f-f-fuck..."
"Are you sure that's what you saw in the papers?" said Sakura, shock written all over her face.
"Yes... absolutely. It said he waived any parental rights to me whatsoever and was never to search for me, contact or take any part in my life financially or emotionally."
"How did Mr. Rawotzki get hold of the papers?" 
"I remember he told me something... um, he said... I don't know, I think he said they were defragmenting the database, rearranging documents, because he'd wanted independence from Ford's empire, some files had got mixed up and somehow Ford's personal documents had landed in his... Rawotzki started to check the information, talked to some people about it and found out that when my mom had got pregnant, Ford was just starting to climb up at the international market. They weren't even living together nor had he ever intended to... Then my mom had decided she wanted to have the baby and... she'd died giving birth to me... the doctors had ran a DNA test and traced it to Ford, but he'd said he hadn't wanted any clogs on his feet... the company was too important, so, he gave me up... Just like that."
Microsoft paused and took a deep breath to stop the emotions tapping on the back of his eyes, roiling in his throat, pricking at his fingertips. The memories came back in an avalanche. Sakura shifted uneasily.
"I am sorry, Mike," she said under her breath.
"We had a plan," he said suddenly.
"A plan? To do what?" 

Microsoft became very still and a new memory clouded his face, but as he opened his mouth to answer, his SC flickered. 
"The conference's started." He synchronized his SC with the wall display.
"I am not sure it is a good idea to watch it now..." said Sakura slowly and insistently  but Microsoft wasn't listening, because there, on the huge white wall opposite them, appeared the man whom he'd hated for so many years without knowing it. 

Ford sat in a silicon hoverchair before a bunch of journalists, about 20 of them, who represented Top Mass Media Ten - the most prestigious web-news companies - armed to the teeth with SCs, hovercameras, IVs, voice intensifying skin patches stuck to their Adam's apples, and relaxers. Ford seemed a little nervous, though he was concealing it as well as he could. Behind him stood Mallory Okolloh, head of security - a rock of composure and strength. 

The room was quite small, decorated green and white, but Microsoft knew that behind those green-lit walls were hundreds of employees answering calls, coordinating lights, managing the order of questions, ready to prompt Ford. Icon must be somewhere close coordinating online posts, Mat would be there too, probably redirecting Ford's SC to different experts depending on the question. 

Microsoft tried to spot Ford's SC - no earplugs, no bracelets, he would definitely not agree to an underskin patch... where could it be? Then he saw a ring with a square black gem. That must be it. Ford was fumbling with the ring in an effort either to adjust it to his finger or to hide his agitation. Microsoft hoped for the latter, he desired with all his being to see Ford Industries collapse before Ford's eyes, he wished Evos Ford would be condemned, sentenced and executed by the crowd.
However, a couple of minutes later Ford was answering questions in a free and confident manner, he had let the ring go and was giving very precise and clear information as to the rescue team, the deadlines, the progress of the operation. It seemed the room was under his control: the journalists would wait for their SCs to turn green, which meant their cue to ask a question. They would hear Ford out and sit down satisfied. 

At one point, Microsoft noticed one particular short man in the background who didn't look too happy. He was fidgeting, tapping his small fingers on the SC in an impatient expectation of the green light. His small black eyes were restless, but very determined. He was watching the journalists, watching Ford, Mallory and even the spy-screens on the walls. It was hard to say whether he was upset, angry, or just nervous. His thermo-regulating jacket was hanging loosely off the skinny shoulders, unbuttoned, the pants were also a couple of sizes too big

As soon as the SC gave him the green light, he bolted to his feet ready for action. By contrast to his appearance, his voice was distinct, loud and deep, he was very direct and bold, choosing his words carefully but dauntingly.
"Alcatraz Dahl, 'FreeVoice Channel'. I am sure I am not the only one who is having doubts about the future of teleportation in view of the recent events. The social space is questioning the security of teleporting because, on the one hand, it is obviously possible to forge licences and, on the other hand, there is no anti-theft system preventing hapless hackers from being hurt. My question is, Mr. Ford, do we need another monster in the world with enough danger in it? After all, it is your teleportation network that has taken a young man hostage, and if anything goes wrong, you will be labelled a murderer.  Can't we all live happily without the transport that is killing people?" 
Alcatraz hung the question in the air and tilted his head a little, his cheeks pink and his eyes sparkling. 
"Mr. Dahl," said Ford, whose face betrayed no emotions. "I appreciate you farsightedness, and I, too, think that we could live happily without many things, but the Earth is a big ball that moves under people's feet. If you stop - you will roll back until you finally fall off the ball, because other people around you are still going forward. That's how progress works - simple physics. Teleportation is an obvious next step forward in the industry of public transport. The world is moving fast: we don't drive - we hover, there are supersonics instead of trains. If you know your history, Mr. Dahl, you'll remember that many people died trying to fly - but now flying is as secure as ever."
"So, the boy in the tunnel is a sacrifice for the common good?" Alcatraz tilted his head to the other side, watching Ford closely. 
Microsoft liked the guy already, he too tilted his head waiting for Ford to react. Ford, however, went on as if he hadn't noticed any sarcasm in the question.
"Tell me, Mr. Dahl, if someone gets killed with a kitchen knife, do you blame the knife-maker?" Alcatraz didn't answer, so Ford continued. "People who make kitchen knives have only good in mind, there is a certain purpose to the knife, and why should they take the blow if someone uses it as a weapon? It says on every receiver/trasmitter unit "Do not use without a licence certified by Ford Industries". It's a warning that should not be taken lightly, but we all learn from our mistakes. I can assure you we will do our best to save the boy, but let it be a lesson to us all. Thank you, Mr. Dahl."
Alcatraz opened his mouth to say something else, but his SC turned red and he had to sit down. He started tapping on the SC again, clearly without any intention to accept defeat.

A woman in her forties stood up to ask the next question.
"You do have children, Mr. Ford, don't you?" the woman said. Alcatraz raised his eyes and stared at her smiling. He must have recognized a prospective accomplice in his crusade to challenge Ford. 
"Indeed," said Ford
"Would you learn the lesson if it was your son there?"
Microsoft stiffened at the words, as did Ford. 
"I didn't catch your name."
"I didn't give you my name," said the woman, making Alcatraz's smile broader. "Nor did you answer my question."
Ford looked around the room briefly, evaluating the situation. Everyone was quiet, expectant, watching this little play-off with vivid interest. Ford opted for passive defense. 
"I don't have a son and never had.

Microsoft didn't take his eyes off the screen. 
"But if it was one of my daughters," Ford went on. "I certainly would learn the lesson, and I certainly wouldn't justify her. What the boy did was a criminal offence, we shouldn't forget that."
"How can I." The woman gave Ford a bitter smile. "I'm his mother."

вторник, 12 марта 2013 г.


Chapter IX

The Day before the Storm

"How about these?" Gear spun digital shoes off the wall and onto the fitting platform and presented a new row of polished austerity brogues in hues ranging from cherry to sanguine. 

"Oxblood," said Ford without looking at them. He sat at his desk, and his face glowed all shades of red as he listened intently to the voice of his daughter in his head. His SC bracelet glowed from under his sleeve. Gear, who was to his right, slid around shopping windows with all kinds of business clothes and shoes on the wall display, occasionally throwing them onto the fitting platform where they turned to 3D projections, hovering in the air above the black round patch of the platform that was fitted to the floor.

"No, it's not possible," said Ford firmly. "You know why! My company's future is at stake, I have to be here, and you want me to rush to the other end of the world to see a baby that is so small it won't even realize I'm there!"

Gear took the oxblood shoes and put them aside, then hesitated before speaking again.
"Mr. Ford," she whispered. He looked up in a slight surprise, as if he hadn't noticed her before. "Would you like me to come later?"

He stared up and down her turquoise suit that changed hues at different angles to light, and shook his head. She knew he hated the donning procedure, but he seemed happy to have a mild distraction from an obviously unpleasant talk. 
"Just give me what you think is best," he whispered back. "I trust your choice." 

"Please, don't start." His tone went harsh as he looked away. "I'm providing for all of you, and what do you do? You call my granddaughter ZeePee!"

Gear couldn't hear Ford's daughter speaking, but she could see his annoyed face and beads of sweat popping on his temples while he was listening.

As he caught her curious look, she smiled, blushing, and invited him to the fitting platform with a gesture. Ford stood up obediently and stepped onto the black patch. He stood straight and still while she was reprogramming his wardrobe watch. 

"Let me worry for the reputation of my company. If I want to show I'm friends with Rawotzki, I will, but don't tell me how to do it. I don't want him anywhere near my family and now this name is a constant reminder!.. No, you listen to me--"

 Gear finished the projects and gave the watch to Ford. He put it on his wrist a little clumsily, his irritation growing with every second, and clicked on "Morning". His grey suit changed to a two-button trim fit navy blue over a crisp snow-white shirt with a plain burgundy tie matching his oxblood brogues. Ford's face brightened up.

"Alright, alright, of course I want to see her. Send me her projections, and I promise I'll see if I can squeeze out time for a visit. Now I have to go, I have a 24-hour torture to prepare for."

Ford switched off his SC bracelet, and Gear started speaking again.

"This navy blue suit is perfect for the first part of the conference; it'll give people confidence in you and an impression of stability and control."

Ford looked at himself, and an expression of approval tugged at the corners of his eyes.

"Just one thing." His gaze glowed with nostalgia, reflected in the mirror wall. "I'd like a club collar."

"Rounded? Like in the picture?" Gear pointed at the black and white portrait of a man on the wall behind Ford.

"Yes. Henry Ford started this company from scratch hundreds of years ago, and it's still here. I'd like to be reminded of him when I'm out there."

 Gear took Ford's wrist, feeling a light shiver in his hand, and started reprogramming the collar shape on his watch. "Are you scared, Mr. Ford?"

"I'd say... perturbed." Ford put his chin up to take a better look at the new collar on his shirt. He turned to Gear and smiled. "Perfect." Gear continued listing his wardrobe.

"Then there is sharkskin for the evening part, combined with a light-blue shirt, a federal blue tie and licorice shoes, and finally, milk-white for the night."

Ford was clearly enjoying each of his reflections in the mirror, smiling broader with every moment. He asked Gear to use club collar for each shirt and have the clothes tailored and ready in half an hour.

"What about my ring?" he asked when Gear was already leaving.

"It's been fitted with a nano-SC and is being perfected by the designers," she said. "Should be ready in no time."

While Ford was admiring his new looks, Adrian Verlander, Microsoft's colleague and friend, had finished the ring and was observing his work, checking for any flaws. But it was flawless! He was proud to accomplish his first SC without Mike, and it was a ring no less! The first ever SC-ring - and he was the designer. He wondered if it was going to be put into production branded 'A.V. designs'.

A firm female voice put Adrian out of his self-flattering reverie. "Adrian? Adrian Verlander?" 

He looked up to see a tough blonde woman in her forties marching towards him in a rather unfeminine way across the office. 

"That's me," he said, turning his hover-chair around. 

He couldn't decide whether to consider her attractive or not. She wore a smart metallic self-adjusting dress that cleverly emphasized all the right curves of her body;  her short hair opened a rather appealing long neck. Her eyes were soft and kind, but her countenance and posture made her look serious and a little intimidating. Adrian got off the chair and shook her hand while she introduced herself. 

"Spectrum Faraday, I'm with the Technical Support." Her mouth softened into something that resembled a subtle smile. "I'm here for the ring."

She pointed at the ring with her eyes, and Adrian handed it to her with a bow. She raised it to get a better look, studied it for a couple of seconds while Adrian was nervously chewing on the inside of his lip, waiting for her verdict. 

"Subtle," she said.

"Subtle," he repeated, without understanding what she meant.

"Very subtle imperfections," she went on as if to herself. "The upper shank should be a bit wider and flatter, the SC connector operates through veins and since they are not so close to the skin on the finger as on the wrist, the contact surface has to be larger, your under gallery is too archy. See?" 

She put the ring before his eyes and pointed at the inside surface under the stone. Adrian felt his palm sweating; suddenly his would-be chef-d'oeuvre turned to a mere gewgaw. 

Spectrum didn't seem to notice his confusion, too absorbed in her quest for imperfections. 

"Here," she showed him the gem. "The girdle is uneven and one prong is shorter than the others. The setting's too high, gives away the trick inside, and--" Spectrum stopped suddenly, finally taking notice of the impression she was making on Adrian. How pathetic he must have looked, standing beside her, looking at the ring like a child at a broken toy, pouting, his arms hanging down. When he realized she wasn't  speaking, he turned his eyes away with a start and mumbled that he agreed the ring wasn't perfect and he was ready to readjust it.

"Oh, no, there is no time for that now. And the ring is very good, you won't fool an expert but hardly anyone at the conference will notice anything I've just said. After all, there is a beauty in imperfection."

"Please, I don't need no consolation." Adrian sank his big muscly body into his hoverchair. "I know I'm not nearly as good at it as Mike. He always helps me out, I just wish he was back soon. He's with you on the team, right?"

"He is." Spectrum put the ring into her hidden front pocket.

"Do you know why he's M.I.A.?" 

"He has a sleep-in."

"Wow, lucky bug!" said Adrian a little too loudly and hurried to eliminate the awkwardness. "I mean, is he okay?"

"He is." Spectrum was watching Adrian Verlander rather curiously. She continued talking clearly but a little cautiously, as if he was a deer she was afraid to scare away.

"Microsoft had headaches, the hundred's floor is rather stressful."

"I bet! As we say, I'd rather die before I hit hundred!" Adrian laughed rather heartily.
"What's going on up there anyway? I hear the press-con is on?"

"Yes, it starts at 4 a.m."

"Must be a crazy time for you, guys."

"There is a lot to do," admitted Spectrum. "I wouldn't want to be Rivers, the whole administration is on her."

"Rivers? Stallone Rivers? From the coordinating crew?"

"You know her?" Spectrum's cold tone started to make him uncomfortable.

"Yeah, she's just a neighbor. She's quite a chatbot, I must say. I think you'd do a much better job at organizing things."

"You think?" Spectrum's fingers moved dexterously around his nano-sphere.

"I'm sure, you're much more--" he stumbled wanting to say 'controlling', for some reason the word didn't sound good, and he couldn't understand why or what would be the right word to say. He definitely didn't want to goof things up at the first meeting with a woman he assumed he might like, but all the words on his mind sounded even worse: authoritative, bossy, despotic, tyrannical...he started to panic.

"I'm much more..." She raised her eyebrows waiting for him to finish the sentence.

"Much more...balanced," he said cautiously, watching her reaction - she frowned. "I mean composed." She pursed her lips in a strange way. "I mean professional, of course."

She laughed which he considered a score in his favor and relaxed.

"What are you in charge of?"

"Chit-chat." She sighed and her gaze drifted around the floor. "The whole team is going to take online calls, answer questions, select the most important ones to Ford to publish as the manifesto addendum afterwards."

"Is it a 24 this time?" Adrian got up and offered her the hoverchair.

"It always is with Top Techs." She ignored the chair. "I have to go. We have to get the team ready, set the spy displays, check the IVs."

"What are IVs for?"

"Well, Ford is going to be there for 24 hours with 3-minute breaks every 2 hours, so there is a portable IV nourishment system."

"Wow, I never heard it done before, that's very clever." Adrian smiled with genuine admiration.

"It's always done, Mr. Verlander, it's just inconspicuous."

"You can call me Ad," he said, about to ask her out. She seemed to read him just right and stepped away from the table.

"I really have to go now. It was nice to meet you, Adrian." She turned around and headed for the exit.

"What are you doing--" he started, but she looked back - all the softness was gone, there was a tall strong woman staring at him - and he flinched. "It was nice to meet you too."

She walked away, and Adrian felt like he'd just been under a cold shower. He tried flicking Mike, but nobody replied. 

"Alright, buddy, sleep tight," he muttered, getting back to work.

Microsoft still lay on the floor near Sakura, who sat against the wall, her i-contacts twinkling in the dim light, making her look like a scary ghost. Arone peeped  through the porthole, their eyes met and Sakura shook her head. Arone sighed with an incipient desperation, mimicked drinking a glass of something and pointed at Sakura who smiled and mouthed "no, thank you. I'm fine." Arone gave her a feeble smile back and went to the main room. 

Waiting was torture. The hem of her dress had ceased to calm her down long ago. She sat down at Microsoft's desk and twisted a pencil between her fingers. The desk looked like a piece from a very old movie with papers piled on it, blueprints executed by hand and pencils of different colors lying around, but Arone was used to the sight and loved it. She loved Microsoft with all his perks, whatever he did - she loved him, even if she was mad at him, even if she hated him - she loved him still. Her love was like a solid backdrop against which all other feelings happened, and now, looking at his desk, touching his things she wondered how she could have allowed herself be seduced by another man.

Celestro was fiendishly attractive, but the feelings he evoked in her weren't even close to those she had for Microsoft. Arone closed her eyes and touched the cold surface of his desk with her forehead, trying to comprehend for the thousandth time what had happened to her. That evening at Celestro's house was like a vivid dream she couldn't get rid off - she could see every detail, she could smell every bit of the air, she could feel every touch... She felt sick. 

Her SC buzzed bed-time, and she noticed there was a message from work. It said she had a day-off by request of the client who was appointed independent expert at Ford's press-conference. Arone pursed her lips - Celestro didn't have to give her a day-off, because Arone's job didn't depend on Celestro's presence at the mansion. She knew she had to be grateful, after all, she could spend the whole day with Microsoft, but some subconscious cranky voice was telling her that Celestro had done it all just for his own benefit: embarrassing Ford at the conference and finding an excuse for Arone to stay home and clean up the mess he'd made - he was always the kind of person who preferred to close two files with one click. 

Arone threw one more look through the porthole - Microsoft was still asleep. She sighed heavily, overwhelmed by anticipation, anxiety and guilt, but clearly there was no better option for her than to go to bed. 

About two hours later, when Arone had finally surrendered to an uneasy sleep, Microsoft opened his eyes.