понедельник, 24 июня 2013 г.


Chapter XIX

The D-Day Continues

Microsoft strode along the hall away from Matrix's office. His knuckles were supposed to be sore from punching the wall. He had also splashed hot tea all over his hand when he hurled the metal mug against the wall display. He never thought the displays were breakable, but the mug cracked it and crushed a portion of it into tiny pieces that trickled to the floor like pixie dust. His hand was numb like his mind.
The decision to finish the mission had been tough but somehow obvious to him. He knew from the very moment Matrix mentioned the outcome what he needed to do. To think of Arone was excrutiating, so he concentrated on Ford and the plan. As he walked up the stairs, he considered several ways to reach Celestro, tell him to finish what they started no matter what, and the only possible option seemed to be a letter. 
He went down to the office. Adrian wasn't there, which was a relief. Microsoft sat down at his workplace, took a piece of paper and a pencil. He stared blankly at the yellowish sheet for several minutes, but his muscles refused to lift the pencil as if it weighed a ton. Microsoft closed his eyes, rubbed them till they hurt and took a deep breath, fighting off the overwhelming survival instinct. Fear crept under his skin, pricked his heart and pulled at his stomach. He balled his left hand into a fist and started writing.
"Raf, I promise this is the very last favor I ask. But it's important. The situation's fucked up, our mutual friend's gonna do something really terrible. Tell him I said to stop. Please, Raf, flick him and tell him whatever happens he shouldn't do what he's planning to do.

Microsoft read the message over again and added, "...I love you, man." 
He folded the message, wrapped it into a porting envelope and took another sheet of paper. 

When he finished the second message, he sealed it and went upstairs, by a couple of seconds missing Adrian who ran out of the tube and dashed towards the office hoping Microsoft had come back. 
In utter despair Adrian collapsed into his hoverarmchair, panting heavily. He opened the corporate network on his surface display to see if Spectrum was available anywhere. Her office still glowed red, which meant there was no one inside. A bunch of names Adrian heard from Microsoft were piled up in one office - Wireless Fitzgerald, IR Herschel and Augustine Reynolds. 
"Bastards," he whispered and was about to make a bolt for the door, but his legs failed him. "I'm gonna get you," he hissed through his teeth. "In a minute..."

After dropping the message to Rafael into a mail port on his way up, Microsoft reached the hundredth floor. Gear was splendid as always, but Microsoft thought she looked particularly beautiful at that moment. Her crimson clingy dress had more lustre, and her smile was exceptionally friendly and warm. 
"Hey, Gear. How's your day?" he said and waved at her.
"Going well, thank you, Microsoft. Are you alright?"
"Yeah. Fine." Microsoft peered at Ford's office.
"You're here to see Mr. Ford? He's not available at the moment, but--"
"No!.. No. I'm here to see you, actually."
Gear blushed.
"I mean I need a favor," Microsoft said. "It's... I really need you to do something for me, could you?"
"Anything," she said a little too quickly.
"I have a letter that I need you to give to Mr. Ford after the rescue mission's over."
"Letter? What--"
Microsoft took the letter out of his pocket and put it in front of her on the table.
"Oh...a real letter." She tapped her fingers on the sealed paper envelope as if it was something she'd never seen before.
"Gear, it is essential that you give it to him after everything's over."
"Sure...um...I have to admit, this is weird." Microsoft took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Please," he said, and wrinkles of concern flashed through her forehead.
"Are you sure you're fine?" she asked.
"I will be, if you do as I ask."
"Yes, sure. I'll give it to him."
"Thank you." After a second of hesitation Microsoft leaned forward and placed a light kiss on her lips, then left her gaping after him, as he headed for the stairs. 

On his way down he heard hasty footsteps; someone was running upstairs, stumbling on the way. Microsoft frowned and went faster. About 15 floors later a red and sweating Adrian almost bumped into him.
"What the-- Ad? What are you doing running up the stairs?"
Adrian could hardly speak in the attempt to catch his breath.
"I..eh.. the tubes... there were people... shit, Mike! It's you!" Adrian fell on his neck brushing the wet hair against Microsoft's cheek.
"Wow, careful. Ad...Ad, let me go." Microsoft freed himself out of the sticky web of Ad's arms and shook him by the shoulders. "Are you gonna tell me what's wrong or not?"
"What's wrong?" yelled Adrian. "They're gonna kill y--"
Microsoft pressed his hand against Adrian's mouth and pushed him against the wall.
"You don't know what you are talking about," whispered Microsoft. 
Adrian shook Microsoft's hand off and whispered back, "You bet I do. I heard them."
"You must've heard something wrong." 
"Geez, man, unclog your slots and just listen to what I'm saying. This rescue mission of yours--"
"Ad... Now you have to listen to me. I know."
"What? You know it's a suicide mission?"
"What are you gonna do? We have to tell someone. We have to report."
Microsoft looked back through the wall. A few people ran along the corridors; it was unlikely anyone could see them. He turned back to Adrian who was still babbling on about all the things they had to do.
"I'm sorry, bud," said Mircosoft.
"Sorry for wh--" Microsoft banged Adrian's head against the wall so hard that Adrian blacked out. 
"Shit... shit, shit, shit!" Microsoft looked around again, holding unconscious Adrian in his arms. He found himself surprised at his own agility and determination. He would imagine going to such extremes to save his life, not to lose it, but there was something inside him that kept moving him forward. Sudden confidence wiped every last doubt in him and  pushed him to the limit. He was doing the right thing; he was finally worth something. Microsoft lowered Adrian to the ground, took the SC off Andrian's wrist and found Matrix's UIN in the corporate database. 
"Eroglou," barked Matrix into Microsoft's head. 
"You slimy cravened chickenshit, that's who you are!" cried Icon on the background.
"Flattered to hear it from the Holy Mary herself!" said Matrix. "Yes! Who is it?"
"Mat, it's me."
"Mike?.. Who's essie is it?"
"We have a problem."
"I'm listening."
"It seems you aren't the only people in the company who knew." There was silence. "Mat? Are you there?"
"Yes. Where are you?" 
"Stairs. U-um... floor seventy five, or seventy six, maybe."
"Seventy nine. I see you. Who is this?"
"Shit, the cameras."
"How long have you been there?"
"About 5 minutes I guess."
"I'm killing the video and switching the surveillance off. Who's on the floor and what did you do to him?"
"That's Adrian Verlander, he works with me. I just... I just punched him. He's fine, he's just out for a while. He knows, Mat, and he's not happy about it."
"Okay. Listen to me. There's an old elevator shaft behind the wall, but it's hell of a deep, you'll have to carry him down to the first floor, I'll try to disperse an opening there and you can hide him till it's all over. I've blocked the entrances to the staircase, hurry."
"Got it." Microsoft lifted Adrian on one shoulder, and his knees buckled under the weight.
"You have to be in the training room in 5 minutes," Matrix said. "Flick me when you're down."

Matrix hung up and was met by another fit of outrage from Icon.
"Who are you? I have no idea who you are anymore." 
"Like you've just announced, Icon, I'm a fucking fugitive." Matrix opened the building's blueprint and the video of the staircase on his cracked display. Icon's jaw dropped when she saw Microsoft dragging a man's body downstairs.
"Is kidnapping people on your record too? Hacking government just wasn't enough, was it?"
"We're not kidnapping anyone. He'll be fine." Matrix moved the blueprint around and typed in the codes. A short green line lit up on Floor 1. He set a timer on and turned the display off. 
"We have to get back to the training room." 
"No way," said Icon. "There's no way we're doing this. I don't care what Microsoft decided, we have to find another way."
"Yeah, we do." Matrix came up to her, grabbed her wrist and put his SC to hers. Her device whizzed and went dead.
"I can't deal with you now, sorry," he said to Icon, while pushing Rivers out of the office through the dispersed opening. Before Icon realized what was going on, he whooshed the wall closed, locking her in. Rivers blinked, her face wearing a horrified expression. 
"Are you gonna be trouble too?" he asked wearily. She shook her head. "Good,"  he said and stared at her for another moment. She was beautiful. Things might have worked out between them, but it no longer matter. Matrix pulled her to himself and kissed her, feeling her body relax in his arms. When she opened her eyes, the shock was gone. "Stallone, I don't wanna go back to exile. I won't have another chance. They won't make the same mistake twice and I'll forget everything, this time forever. I'll be a zombee somewhere in Zimbabwa. Ford's given me a new name, a new face, a new life, I can't lose it all. No one has to know, do you understand? Microsoft's made up his mind and it's hard for me too, but I just... there's too much at stake. Would you please keep quiet? For me?"
"You are a fucking pussy, Matrix," said Stallone. "But so am I. I can't bear losing you." 
He squeezed her hand, and they hurried towards the tubes. 

Microsoft caught up with them at the entrance to the training room.
"Done?" asked Matrix.
"Yeah. Here's his essie. I guess you should have it, since I won't... you know."
Matrix took the SC and put it into his pocket. 
"Mike," he said quietly without looking at him. "Are you sure you wanna go through with it?"
"He's a kid, Mat, a kid with parents who love him and expect him to come out alive. Of course, I'm sure."
Matrix nodded. "Stallone, I think you should go and help Faraday and Schrödinger with the docs and feedback. There's still loads of work."
Stallone turned to Microsoft and hugged him, then rushed out of the room. 
The familiar wave of emotions came over Microsoft again. His body ached, but he braced himself. "Shall we?" he said.
"Wait..." Matrix hesitated. "Do you... Do you want to flick anyone? You know, say a few words before..."
"Mat, please, don't." 
Matrix nodded again and showed him into the training-room.

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