вторник, 16 июля 2013 г.



Chapter XXIII

The Day Before

"Did you willingly activate the algorithm that caused the death of Diod Medina?" 
"Yes-- No! I wasn't aware of the consequences."
"Did you willingly activate it?"
"Nobody forced me, so... yes."
"Have you ever discussed the possibility of a lethal outcome for Diod Medina with Mr. Celestro Aurelius Ford, a.k.a. Mr. Celestro Rawotzki?"
"Kind of."
"Have you or have you not?"
"Yes, as a joke."
"As a joke?"
"I didn't mean to say that. It's not that we were joking about him dying... what I mean to say is we haven't discussed it as a real possibility. Though, Mr. Rawotzki mentioned it as something that would have a grave impact on Ford Industries."
"Please, avoid commentaries and give a concise answer."
"No, we have not."
"Was anyone else aware of the plan you claim to have devised with Mr. Celestro Aurelius Ford, a.k.a. Mr. Celestro Rawotzki?"
"No, only me and him. What's up with the name string? Can't you make up your mind?"
"Do you have any grounds to believe your partner, Arone Stevenson, could draw conclusions from your actions or any evidence available to her that may have led to her being in any way familiar with any part of the aforementioned plan?"
"God, no!.. What?"
"Do you have--"
"Okay, okay, whatever you say, but my wife has nothing to do with it and she wasn't involved in any way."
Microsoft felt sick. His arm, that had completely healed, seemed to start throbbing with pain again. The interrogator might as well have been a digiofficer, his face hardly moved except for his mouth that produced monotonous trail of questions. After a while Microsoft doubted the sound came from his mouth and not from some recorder hidden inside of that robot of a man. 
"How was Mr. Rafael Mozes van Rijn involved in the crime in question?"
"He wasn't." 
"The evidence is clear that Mr. Rafael Mozes van Rijn has enabled your passage through the back door of his parlor on multiple occasions, each time on the night of you being taken to Mr. Celestro Rawotzki's mansion to a pre-arranged secret meeting with Mr. Celestro Aurelius Ford, a.k.a. Mr. Celestro Rawotzki. Do you deny it?"
"Is there a special school where you're trained to use as many words as you can squeeze into a sentence?"
The interrogator took his emotionless eyes off the display on his table, for the first time in two hours, and Microsoft felt as if he'd been spiked through the head by a red-hot arrow. He started sweating.
"Do you deny it?" the inquisitor repeated in the exact same tone.
"No, but--" 
The piercing eyes went back down to the display.
"Who else had a direct or indirect complicity in the crime in question?"
"You've already asked me that, haven't you?" 
Another arrow flew through Microsoft's head, and he threw up his arms in defeat. After a two-hour interrogation he felt like a squeezed orange. After he had given his summarized version of the story, which had taken him under 10 minutes, he thought there was nothing more to tell, let alone to ask. But the interrogator seemed to have an infinite list of questions that were meant to torture witnesses and make them confess all the crimes they didn't commit.
"Answer the question," the interrogator said, his eyes fixating Microsoft in place.
"No one else was directly or indirectly involved."
"Do you plead guilty?"
"Guilty of what?" Microsoft decided that two can play the game, but he had underestimated the officer.
"Do you plead guilty of murder in the death of a 14-year-old boy Diod Medina?"
"No, if you put it that way."
"Yes or no."
"Do you plead guilty of abetting the commission of the said crime with a malicious intent?"
"Do you plead guilty of being complicit to the crime?"
"Do you plead guilty on conspiring against you employer..."
"...with the intention to expose the confidential information regarding your employer acting mala fide..."
"Oh, that's what we call murdering employees now - mala fide!"
"...and presenting illegally obtained evidence of a federal crime, which is teleportation back in time, committed by your employer?"
"Are you listening to yourself?"
"Do you or do you not?" 
Microsoft felt an urge to hit the interrogator in his stone expressionless face, but he doubted it would bring any emotion to the fish eyes of the man. He gave up.
"I do."
"You may go." That meant Microsoft could go back to the Federal Quarters where all the witnesses had been accommodated until the resolution of the case. 
Microsoft unhitched himself from the hover chair and staggered out of the inquisition room, shaking his sleepy legs. 
When he reached the room assigned to him, his lawyer, Lyonel Geragos, was already waiting for him. After a two-hour struggle with a human machine this pleasant and empathetic man was like a drink of water in the desert.
"Well, that wasn't so bad," Lyonel said, greeting Microsoft with an encouraging smile.
"Have you been watching the whole time?" Microsoft already felt sorry for Lyonel. He wouldn't wish his worst enemy to sit through those two hours of endless blabber.
"No, I'm not allowed to, but I got the report." Lyonel tapped on the SC, and Microsoft expected a display to pop up, but nothing happened. Instead, Lyonel indicated for him to sit down at the table opposite him and started talking while drawing squares and triangles in the air with his hands as he explained the situation.
"So, they've checked your blood and found the nano-chips of the memory blocker, they've also checked your SC, and your testimony proved to be correct here too, but only the part that an alien code had been installed on it. Celestro Rawotzki will be arrested within a few minutes, though, on suspicion of being your accomplice. Oh, and the date of the hearing is set for tomorrow."
Microsoft's stomach tightened, and he didn't know whether it was because he was disgusted even to hear the name, or because he felt guilty of betraying someone, even if it was the most monstrous creature he'd ever met. He wasn't a betrayer, he told himself, he was doing justice to the boy who had been deprived of a chance to grow up, to build a career, to have a family, and the man who was responsible for this was soon to get what he deserved. At least Microsoft hoped he would. 
"Are you with me?" 
Microsoft heard a click of fingers that startled him.
"Yes." He focused on Lyonel.
"Good. Anyway, there's no evidence to prove your ignorance of the whole matter. You and Rawotzki, you left almost no traces at all, which could be admirable under different circumstances. The attempt to block your memory and your heroic self-slashing could be interpreted either way: for one, you could have been trying to make it look like you're an innocent victim, or it could have been him trying to cover up something you know."
"I understand."
"I also doubt that Rawotzki will let you get away with it, once he learns that you're sound in mind and disposition and have just given testimony against him."
"I doubt that too. So... what do we do?"
"We dig." Lyonel made a sinking gesture with his hands put together which seemed to Microsoft as an indication of his own imminent fall. 
"Rawotzki's sister not much help, most of the useful information she must have is confidential due to her position, so we can't use it," Lyonel continued.
"What sister?" Microsoft wondered if he had aftereffects of memory loss.
"Sakura Takano." Lyonel sounded surprised.
"Bitch," said Microsoft.
"I'm sorry. It must come as a shock for you, I know she'd been your consultant for almost seven years."
"Was she involved?"
"Not that I know of. Arone tells me Mz. Takano didn't have a clue of her brother's plans. Speaking of Arone. Normally, she wouldn't be able to be a witness because you're married, but we are very lucky...well, I say lucky, we are entitled to use her testimony, because our case went international. So--"
"No." Microsoft shook his head. "We don't. I don't want her mixed up in this."
"But she is an important witness of you as a person of good faith."
"Please, Lyonel, leave her out of this." 
"You don't make my job easier, do you," said Lyonel with a sigh. "Well, then, let's hope Ford has at least some sense of conscience left." 
Lyonel's SC flickered and he raised his eyebrows in genuine surprise.
"That was fast," he said. "Rawotzki's here."
Microsoft's heart dropped.
All Microsoft wanted was to run away screaming. He should have never cut out the memory blocker. An innocent boy had died because he was too blinded by his hatred for a fake father to see what was really going on. He was betrayed by someone he considered to be his friend, the same person who made a crack in his relationships with Arone, the crack that seemed irreparable. It was the same man who made him look like a murderer, and Microsoft was the one who had to prove the opposite, had to sit through countless interrogations, endure the pitiless sting of the press and the poignant lamentations of the grieving mother. 
Celestro, on the other hand, appeared to be a victim of a terrible turn of events, accused only by Microsoft with no substantial evidence at hand. Celestro's name was mentioned nowhere, not even in Mike's letters to Ford or Rafael. He went cold and he must have looked really terrified, because Lyonel kept saying his name and having got no reaction started shaking him by the shoulders.
"Mike, do you feel unwell? Should I call the doctor?"
"I'm going to be exiled, ain't I?" He stared into space, and got a hard slap across his face, which made his cheek burn but did help to wake out of the comatose.
"Stop thinking like that," snapped Lyonel.
"But you don't have any evidence against him, it's just my words and they weigh nothing." Microsoft sounded like a whining toddler who's been refused a ride in a theme park, but he couldn't help it.
"We have your team, we have the Doodads shop where your SC had been reprogrammed, they agreed to testify that they had been paid to do it by ZP. We have Rafael, even without any substantial evidence he'll make Rawotzki look bad. The old man hates him so much he does it almost subconsciously. We finally, hopefully, have Ford, for whatever that's worth. There's a lot to go on. Enough to build on."
That didn't convince Microsoft, but he had no chance to say anything, because Lyonel's SC flickered again and made the normally contained lawyer roll his eyes and scowl. 
"What else?" asked Microsoft.
"Mr. Rawotzki's just exercised his right to talk to one person apart from his attorney."
"Is there such a right? I've talked to more than one, I guess, and I'm almost a convicted murderer."
"You weren't the key suspect when you did. In case of an international offense there is a strict rule that a suspect isn't allowed to talk to anyone apart from the attorney to avoid compromising the investigation. A suspect has a right to see one person, though, but people usually ask to see a relative or a partner."

"Who did he asked to see?" Butterflies in Microsoft's stomach turned into huge ugly dung beetles, tossing and turning inside of him.
"He asked to see you." Lyonel's face darkened with thoughts.
"But this is not the right to see one person, this is a face-to-face, isn't it? I'm witnessing against him, so, it's logical he would like to confront me on this."
"No, he specifically asked to speak to you outside any trial proceedings. Your meeting will be recorded, of course, but we can't use any of your conversation with him as evidence in court."
"Then, I don't want to see him." Microsoft crossed his arms. "I can refuse, can't I?"
"Yes," said Lyonel, "But it would be most unwise to do so."
"What, it makes my situation worse than it already is?"
"That, and the fact that if you talk to him, we will be able to see what position he's taking, which can have a critical impact on our strategy of defense."
Microsoft covered his face with his hands, slid his fingers up the forehead and through his hair and rested them on his nape for a while shaking his head in a stubborn denial. He didn't want to see Celestro, let alone talk to him, but he knew he had to. 
"Okay, let's get it over with." He stood and let a satisfied Lyonel usher him out.

Sakura, still boiling with rage, lay on the sofa glaring at her brother who was pacing in front of her and yelling at some employee of his on the SC.
"I don't care how much it may cost, just get me what they know... Why the hell was he in hospital?.. I'm not asking you to get into the tenth dimension, am I? It's people, they are easier to crack than a chestnut. Do whatever it takes!.. My goodness, I'm working with idiots!" Celestro collapsed on the sofa, rubbing his eyes with the tips of his fingers.
"Aren't you too wound up for someone who's innocent?" said Sakura in a grave voice.
"Why are you even here?" He twisted to his left to give her an irritated look.
"I'm still your sister. Where am I supposed to be?" 
"Comforting Arone or something, I don't know!"
"I'm not her favorite person at the moment, thanks to you," she snapped without even bothering to control her emotions.
"But you have to know something." There was a sudden hope in his voice. "You were interrogated, weren't you? You must have seen Arone or Mike?"
"For the hundredth time, Lester, the only person I saw was the soulless officer who let me go after five minutes because, as a senior psychiatrist, I'm not allowed to reveal information."
"Useless... you're useless." Celestro leaned back on the sofa with his eyes closed.
"And you're pathetic," she hissed. 
"Yes! Did you dig up anything?" Celestro jumped onto his feet so abruptly, that Sakura had to grab the back of the sofa not to fall off it. It took her a moment to realize he was talking to someone from his company again. He started pacing while he was listening, then something he heard brought him up short, he went pale and turned his horrified face to Sakura. 
"He cut it out?" he whispered.
"Cut what out? Who?" Sakura got off the sofa. Footsteps in the hall made them both turn their heads with a start. The next moment federal agents appeared in the opening with a warrant to arrest Celestro Rawotzki.

When he was led along a dim narrow corridor to the visitation room, Microsoft caught a glimpse of the outside. The Federal Quarters were little different from a prison, he supposed: everything inside the building was dull and plain, and there were shimmering electric bars visible on the windows. Through them he could see commercial buildings with little people hurrying back and forth along the hallways. It seemed he was in a different city and in a different time. The sky was wearing an unfamiliar grey veil across its face, drizzling tears down on the colorless roofs. It was the first day of the rainy week, Microsoft remembered, and it was strange to see the city in a gloom of the foul weather. Somehow, though, it felt right in the circumstances, more comforting than the sun could ever be. 
A dark-green wall whooshed open before Microsoft, and he squinted away from the bright light coming from inside the room. After a moment, when his eyes adjusted, he saw Celestro sitting at a wooden table in the middle of the room. Not a hovertable, Microsoft noted with a surprise, a normal dark-brown table that had four legs rooted firmly in the floor. Celestro seemed relaxed, his hands lying openly in front of him. He was leaning against the back of his hoverchair in his usual nonchalant manner, but for a moment Microsoft could swear Celestro went stiff and his lips as he saw his opponent enter the room. 
Microsoft sat down, a little reassured by this subtle sign of nervousness on Celesro's side. The opening closed up, and they were left alone in a brightly lit room, surrounded by nothing but pale walls that gave out obscure green sheen. They were surely concealing spy screens. Bright white sconces dotted the perimeter of the room like alligator spikes. 
Microsoft stared at one of the sconces till his eyes started to hurt, then blinked away seeing everything through dazzling circles of light. Celestro kept examining him with his head tilted, like Microsoft was a curious museum piece. 
"Is our time out yet?" said Microsoft after a while, squeezing his eyes shut to get rid of the remnants of the reflected fluorescence.
"I'm sorry you hurt your arm," said Celestro. Microsoft reflectively moved his hand to the spot on his arm where the wound had been.
"So you should be." He looked his used-to-be friend directly in the eye.

"I hope you understand why I had to do it."
"Which part, killing the boy or trying to make me forget? Or maybe screwing my wife or my life for that matter? Or maybe lying to me about your father being mine?"
"So, he told you," said Celestro without as much as a blink.
"I was stupid enough to write him a letter. I told him I forgave him for everything he'd done and I was sorry there was no time left for me to tell him that in person, because I was going to die, for his sake. But you knew that all along."
"I didn't know about the letter, but I should've guessed. Sentiment has always been your weakness." 
"And hatred has been yours. Look where it got you now."
Celestro studies the table. "So far, it got me nowhere I can't get out of." 
Microsoft's face twisted with disgust.
"You were denied by your father and still became anything one can ever wish to be. Tell me, how come this is a reason enough to kill an innocent child?" 
"What happened to Diod Medina was a terrible accident."
"Don't try to play me, Celestro. I know you changed the algorithm and I hate myself for being so blind, because his blood is on my hands now too." Pain deep inside Microsoft felt like a tiny snowball, rolling and growing into an avalanche.
"You know nothing," said Celstro in the same calm voice. "Matrix Eroglou messed up the algorithm, probably, because he wanted to finally be free from Ford, or maybe he was just mad at his boss who held the poor genius on a leash like a dog.  He was planning this whole operation for a long time, avoiding his colleagues, devising the whole operation on his own without as much as an explanation to his team members. Now he's gone, because he's guilty."
"What are you talking about?" Microsoft couldn't believe his ears. Celestro leaned forward on his elbows and there was a silent cry in his eyes.
"Think about it, Mike. He tricks you into sacrificing yourself, he has your SC all along, he could have done anything. He's smart enough to fool anyone, but not me. He set us up, and now you're stupidly playing right into his hands."
Microsoft watched Celestro with such dread that words failed him. He moved his lips but no sound would come out. He was aghast even more when he realized that what Celestro was saying made sense, except there was no way it could be true.
"Not a word," Microsoft whispered finally. "Not. Another. Word."
"We just wanted to expose a crime, a federal crime. Yes, I lied to you about your family ties, but a little lie means nothing if it helps expose a federal offense, right? As a good citizen it was my duty to prevent a terrible violation of the International Law, and I can only be sorry that I failed in my attempt to expose it before the incorrigible happened."
"What... how... I'm not..." Microsoft stumbled at every word.
"I knew you would blame yourself and tell Ford about your feelings. Then you would know he was not your father. That's why I put a memory blocker into your arm, to spare you and spare myself the unnecessary association with this criminal. But I deeply regret doing so, because you deserved to know the truth. Now I realize that." Celestro leaned forward closer to Mike. 
"We can get through this," he said under his breath. "We didn't do anything wrong."
"You, bastard." Microsoft leaned back. "One human sacrifice just wasn't enough to satisfy your divine appetite, was it? Now you want another innocent man to pay for your crimes. Matrix was a thousand times as good a person as you could ever be, even if you lay you life for it. Don't you dare say anything against him, do you hear me? Don't you dare!" Microsoft dug his nails into the wooden surface of the table without noticing. When he jerked his hands away from Celestro, there were tiny red threads of blood left where he had scratched the table. White with rage, he grasped the arm-rests of his hoverchair to keep himself from tearing Celestro apart on the spot.
"All I ever wanted is for her... and you to be happy." Celestro's voice cracked just a little.
"Well," Microsoft sneered. "You made a pretty crappy job of it, now, didn't you?"
"I don't blame you for hating me--"
"Blame me?" Microsoft couldn't sit quietly anymore. He shot up to his feet and put his hands on the table, now towering over it, his voice rising with every word he said. "The boy is dead. Dead. Do you realize that? He was fourteen, for Chrysler's sake, and you killed him! Now you're talking about me, about Arone, and happiness of all things? What kind of a monster are you?"
"There's more to life than you think." Every tiny line in Celestro's face went rigid.
"What do you know about life? You have no regard for human life, except your own!"
"I'm not a monster. Ford's a monster! He was ready to kill you to save the shitty company of his. He just reaped what he sowed."
"Are you insane or just pretending? It's not about him, or you, or me!" spat Microsoft into his face.
"You don't know what I've been through, Mike!" Celestro rose to his feet too and faced his opponent.Their foreheads were practically touching. "You don't know anything about me!"
"You right, I don't! But you wanna know what I see? I see a beast, a selfish inhuman creature who's ready to sacrifice anyone and anything to satisfy his own pride. And you know who I see? I see Ford oozing through you, through every word you say, through every move you make."
"I'm not like him," said Celestro in a wavering voice.
"In what way are you not?" Microsoft became suddenly quiet. He articulated every word, making sure to deliver every single letter. "He traded his son for a career, you traded the only friend you ever had for stupid revenge, you wiped your boots on me and my wife. He gave orders to kill a man, you executed a man with your bare hands. Now you're trying to put it on someone else, because you're too much of a coward to face the music that you had composed. You are both murderers. But you know the best part of it? He's better than you, because he had given you a chance and you blew it. 
"You chose to be alone, and you'll die alone. You don't deserve to have a friend, or a sister, or a father. And it's your fault. All of it is your fault. I was your friend, Lester, and Arone was too. She maybe even loved you. But now she can't stand even to hear your name. I thought there had to be something good in you, something I was missing because I hated you so much." 
Microsoft walked away from the table and squeezed his temples with his shaking hands. "You know, I've been thinking and thinking, trying to find anything to justify what you had done, anything at all. But arguments kept slipping through my fingers, because nothing can justify you. I thought, maybe, a puny bit of humanity, or conscience, or at least courage was left in you, somewhere deep in your heart, but I was wrong, because there is no heart, there can't be. Not in you."
Microsoft turned away and walked towards the wall. He stood there in silence, shivering for several seconds with his back to Celestro. Finally, the opening dispersed, and he dashed out of the room. 
Celestro swallowed, his throat felt dry and rough. His legs gave way, and he sank onto the chair and didn't move until he was pushed up to his feet and led to his room.

четверг, 11 июля 2013 г.

DISINTEGRATION Chapter XXII The Time to Sow and the Time to Reap


Chapter XXII

The Time to Sow and the Time to Reap

The words sounded to Microsoft as mockery at first. He even forgot about pain for a second and almost dropped the pledget he was pressing against the wound. The wad wasn't helping much, though, it'd got soaked in blood almost instantly.
"I know it comes as a shock," Ford went on. "Judging by the passionate words you left me in your...how should I put it... last note, you must truly think we are related."
Still sarcasm and mockery was all Microsoft heard. 
"I don't believe you," he said through his teeth.
"I thought you wouldn't, I thought you wouldn't." Ford patted himself on the chest and fished a very familiar document out of the front pocket of his vest. It was the exact replica of the birth certificate Celestro had showed Microsoft. The plate enlarged at the touch of the SC, and Ford put it on the table for Microsoft to see. I, Evos Mondeo Ford, being ...father of the minor child, Celestro Aurelius Ford...
"What?" Microsoft didn't realize he'd said it aloud and startled when Ford answered.
"That's exactly what it says. I don't know how he tricked you, but then, he's always been a smart kid. Celestro Rawotzki, as he calls himself now, is my son. Not you."
A heat wave of shock went through Microsoft's body, turning to cold sweat. 
"No, it can't be true, I saw it." Microsoft shook his head, refusing to accept the truth that was now shattering his whole world. "Celestro showed me this same document, only there was my name on it."
"As I said, he's always been a smart kid."
Ford looked almost impressed. Birth certificate was next to impossible to replicate. Suddenly everything fell into place for Microsoft: Celestro's readiness to help, meticulous plans and equipment he provided without a question, a different algorithm at the output of teleportation and, weirdly, Microsoft himself being alive. Hell knows what happened to the boy. "I don't know what I'd do if my father had done to me what yours did to you." The words surfaced in his mind like a water mine cut loose. That's exactly what he would do, thought Microsoft, he would do whatever it took to have his revenge. 
Ford, apparently, felt the necessity to say something else, since Microsoft was too astounded to talk for quite a long time.
"I am sorry you've been misled, and with horrible consequences too. But you should know one thing, it was me who found him. I came across his name once, a beautiful name,  Celestro, one of a kind. I saw it in the list of interns who applied to work in my company and I researched him. I didn't find him at first. He was supposed to take the last name of his first foster parents when he was of age, since he wasn't allowed to know his real last name. There were a couple of Rawotzkis in the country, but the names were spelled differently and they had nothing to do with Celestro. He used a last name that didn't exist. A stubborn boy, you know, very independent too. He was 16 when he hacked the register and changed his last name. He did it so impeccably that no one ever questioned it, or bothered to check. 
"I would expect it didn't take him much effort to change his birth certificate and my waver to make them look like they were in your name, either." 
Microsoft didn't have much desire to listen to the story of Celestro's life, but somehow he couldn't say anything, just stared at Ford as if the man wasn't real. Ford sat on one of the hoverchairs
"When he came to do his internship here, I admired him. He was a pure genius. Very soon he was better than anyone in the company, he was even making plans to set up his own business. So I told him. It was illegal, I know, but I couldn't do otherwise and I honestly thought he already knew. Such a smart guy, I thought, he must have researched his heritage with no trouble at all. I told him everything and asked him to take my name and share my business. I said I'd help him whatever it was he wanted to do or be. I didn't expect he would be so furious. I couldn't imagine how much he actually hated me for leaving him. He hated the father he'd never known so much that he didn't even bother to find out who he was."
"What did you expect? That he would run towards you with open arms?" Microsoft hardly recognized his own voice as he said that. It was coarse and low, full of bitterness and defense, as if he was taking Celestro's side.
"No." Ford must have felt it too, because he seemed a little taken aback by the tone of Microsoft's words. "But all I wanted was the best for him. And he turned his back on me and told me to never mention out relation to anyone, or he'd sue me and destroy my name along with my career. He didn't want to have anything to do with me."
"Why am I not surprised?" said Microsoft with the same bitterness in his voice. 
"Well, I am surprised, though." Ford straightened up. "I'm surprised you're defending him. He tricked you, he lied to you, used you. You almost died because of him."
"Actually," said Microsoft. "I almost died because of you." 
As soon as he said that he realized he'd just made things worse for Matrix. The fact that Matrix had told Microsoft about Ford's order was quite clear from the death note, but now Microsoft himself had just confirmed it to Ford's face. There was nothing left to lose.
"You were prepared to kill someone to save your fucking name, just like you didn't think twice before you left your own child for the sake of your career." Microsoft waved his hand in a hopeless gesture, spraying blood all over Ford's face and vest. Ford went stiff and looked at the stains. For a moment Microsoft thought Ford might take a swing at him, when the opening dispersed and both of them turned around. Matrix stood there as if he was about to break down, his eyes widened and his chest rising and falling .
"What is it?" snapped Ford.
"Diod Medina teleported." Matrix caught Microsoft's eyes for a moment. "To four places."
"Well, then, find out where exactly he is now," said Ford, losing his temper.
"No, I mean to four places... he's at four places at the same time." Matrix's voice cracked.
"What are you talking about? How is it possible? Did you clone him?" yelled Ford.
"He's split up." It was Microsoft who had spoken, and he saw by the way Matrix covered his mouth and drew in breath that he was right. 
Microsoft's legs gave way. Everything he'd been numb to till now, rushed over him all at once: throbbing pain in his arm, blood streaming down and making his skin itch, his head spinning, nausea climbing up his throat. He fell to his knees and threw up into the pool of blood under him. The next moment everything went black, a second time.

"You're a part of it, aren't you?" hissed Sakura while Rafael was helping Arone onto the sofa.
"How very unprofessional of you," said Celestro, leaning back away from her. "Calm down, sis."
The screen displayed shocked faces of people, some were screaming, some were crying. The news about the split up boy went online hardly a minute after the teleportation. The four T/R platforms where the accident took place were swarming with journalists. 
"It is the most outrageous and inhuman thing since tortures of the Middle Ages," one of the journalists reported. "An innocent boy has been brutally quartered and spat out onto the streets of the city. What is it that Evos Ford is trying to say? What kind of a barbarous portent is that? The police and the UN officials are demanding entrance to the Ford Industries building as we speak..."
Celestro turned the display off and the room went eerily quiet. Arone sat on the sofa shivering as if from cold, Rafael beside her, his right arm over her shoulders. Sakura pierced Celestro with her eyes, still waiting for him to answer her question.
He raised his hands dismissively. "I have nothing to do with it, okay?"
"Lie," said Sakura. "Another shameless lie."
"Why do you always blame me?" he said. "Whatever happens I just must be involved somehow, is that what you think?"
"Because you always are," said Arone, staring unseeingly in front of herself. "And it seems this time you dragged Micro into it."
Celestro knelt down before her so she had to look at him.
"Arone. Remember I told you, everything would be okay? It is okay, just as I promised. I don't have anything to do with the boy's horrible death, nor has Microsoft. You'll see when he'll get back. You'll ask him yourself." 
Celestro reached out to stroke her hair but got a harsh slap across his hand.
"Get your filthy tentacles off her, vulturous brood!" Rafael stood up in front of Arone shielding her away from Celestro who got up on his feet and was looking at her over Rafael's shoulder. He didn't care about the elaborate names Rafael carried on giving him, but she didn't move, just stared on blankly into space.

The first thing he saw was a red-haired girl with incredibly long lashes fluttering like dying butterflies over her swollen from tears eyes. He thought he was dreaming or in heaven, neither seemed to be true, since he could feel the bright light hurt his eyes. Arone smiled at him, relieved and worried at the same time. 
"Hi," she whispered.
"Hi," he wheezed back and raised his head a little to see where he was. The windowless room was pale green. He was lying in a soft bed, his arm in a healing sleeve. 
"It's almost recovered." Arone ran her fingers along the metal of the sleeve. "You survived."
"Who told you I wouldn't?"
"Adrian did. Now everyone knows anyway, it's all over the news. But I wasn't talking about the time-travel. You lost a lot of blood, you almost bled to death."
"That would've been ironic, wouldn't it? Escaping one death and offing myself accidentally." He tried a smile.
"No, it would." She gave him a reproachful look.
"I'm sorry. Not just for the joke, for leaving you out. I should have--" She put her finger across his dry lips.
"There's a lot of things we should and shouldn't have done, Mike. Right now you just have to get better. You're the key witness."
He raised his eyebrows. "Am I?"
"This isn't an ordinary hospital, it's the Federal Forensic Infirmary."
"Sounds creepy."
"Ford's under arrest, your team is being questioned."
"What about Rawotzki?" 
"He said he's not involved, they questioned him and let him go. They have nothing on him. ZP's rating's never been higher." Arone's voice was full of loathing, but there was hope too. "He told me you had nothing to do with it, you or him."
"I bet he did."
"Isn't that true?" 

Microsoft felt sorry for her, because he could see it in her eyes that she wanted him to say 'no', to assure her that all that had happened was a tremendous and terrible coincidence. Except it wasn't.
"He's up to his eyes in shit," said Microsoft, pain-stricken. "And so am I."
Arone drew in her breath and bit on her lips to hold back tears.
"I'm gonna tell them everything, Arone." Microsoft took her hand and squeezed it in his. "I'm gonna tell them every bit of it, whatever it may cost me. I'm done scheming and lying, I'm done getting my hopes high for people who never live up to them. I need you to be with me, to tell me this is the right thing to do."
She nodded and leaned forward, letting his arm curl around her.

Microsoft couldn't say how long they had been lying like this, locked in each other's arms, but it didn't seem long enough when someone entered the ward, thumping against the floor to a halt. 
"Kern!" Microsoft was sincerely happy to see the man. Arone stood up, and he introduced himself to her in his usual avuncular way.
"I'm glad to see you recovering, my friend." Kern winked at Microsoft. 
"Me too." Microsoft remembered where he was. "Are you allowed to be here? We're all suspects, shouldn't we be separated or something?"
"We're not suspects, Mike." Kern plunged heavily on the side of the bed. "We're witnesses. And I'm the man of law, so I'm the best example of a cooperative witness there is. Speaking of witnessing, that's what I came to talk to you about."
Kern paused and looked at Arone.
"Oh," she said. "Do I have to leave?"
"It's up to Mike."
"I'd like her to stay," said Microsoft, sitting up. "I want her to know everything. But first, tell me what happened. I don't understand how the team got away with it."
"Consider the non-disclosure agreement your life ring. Ford hoped it would be his collateral, but it turned against him and left him, in fact, the only person fully responsible for what happened. The rest of us are under protection of non-disclosure, privilege of once being the first in the Top Ten Tech."
Microsoft spotted a self-contented smile on Kern's face. "You knew."
"Well," the big man said. "I had no idea what would happen. How could anyone have? But I certainly wasn't worried for the legal side of it. The team was covered, and I didn't really bother for the Old Hundred. I'm sorry for him, but I can't say he didn't get what was coming to him."
"And Matrix?" 
Kern frowned, and his enthusiasm faded.
"Yes. Him..." Kern's sigh sent vibration through the bed. "His name is not Matrix Eroglou, it's Tensorfield Riemann. He was a young criminal exiled for violating the international servers. They made a mistake while blocking his memory, and when it started coming back to him, he figured out how to get in touch with Ford, who was one of the most influential international figures at the time. He struck a deal with him, and Ford got him out, bought him a new name and a new life in exchange for his talent, which, I have to admit, is genuinely unmatched."
"He's in trouble, then?" Microsoft felt a pang of guilt.
"He could have been spared, but he stupidly ran off, disappeared before anyone knew who he really was. Now, if they find him, he'll get the whole lot and bonuses. So, yes, he's in trouble."
"Why did he run off?" 
Kern gave him a sad smile.
"He was afraid, I guess. After two years in exile I doubt anyone would want to go back there."
"But you said he could have been spared," said Arone.
"Well." Kern shuffled around on the bed, trying to make himself more comfortable. "He'd certainly get a milder sentence, but he is a fugitive, and he broke into the governmental system. He's outdone himself by far this time. Still not a good reason to make things worse by escaping."
"Did Ford give him away?"  asked Microsoft.
"No, no. I don't think Ford even cares about him that much now. His life is a pile of debris at the moment. There was a total shakedown in the company, they've looked through every single byte. That's how they found Matrix's file. Speaking of files, I'm actually here to ask you something."
"Go ahead." Microsoft anticipated the question.
"They found some quite interesting documents on Ford when they stormed in with a warrant, you must have blacked out by then, but I reckon you know what I'm talking about. I mean, there were only two of you in the room, and the birth certificate on the table."
"Yes, he told me everything," said Microsoft.
"I had a hunch, though it's a mystery to me why he would tell you something like that. Anyway, Celestro Rawotzki, or should I rather say Celestro Aurelius Ford, has been interrogated. He refused to admit that he'd known anything about the operation, and Ford's silent so far. I agree the situation is peculiar, but accusing him on the ground that he's Ford's son is absurd, so hopefully you have more to tell--"
"Excuse me?" It was Arone who had been listening to Kern with a such an outraged and astonished expression on her face as if he'd just stepped on her foot and spilled coffee all over her.
"U-um, yes," said Microsoft. "Rawotzki is Ford's son, and I am not. He forged the papers. I thought it was all over the news too, so, I didn't bother to tell you."
"You didn't bother to tell me?" she echoedб rising her voice at the end of the question. 
"Sorry, I put it the wrong way. I just thought you knew. And besides, we've talked only for a few minutes, it didn't come up, somehow." Microsoft turned to Schrödinger with a pleading look.
"The information's not out yet," said Kern clearly amused by the little bickering he was witnessing. "It's your call, Mike, but I have a very strong suspicion that Celestro Rawotzki had a part in what happened, I can smell a rat when I see one."
"What if I told you...," said Microsoft stealing a look at Arone. "What if I told you everything that happened was Rawotzki's plan and I helped him come through with it completely unaware I was doing it?"
"I'd say, we'd better have good evidence of that last part." 
"I didn't exactly have no clue," sighed Microsoft and Arone bit on her lip. "Considering Adrian surely told everyone what had happened to him, my grounds are fairly shaky."
"He said he'd mistaken an opening and fell into the elevator shaft." There were no emotions in Kern's words, but his raised eyebrow was enough for Microsoft to understand Kern didn't believe Adrian's story.
"He must have been damn rattlebrained to have missed the opening." said Microsoft. He knew Adrian loved him, but he'd never imagined he would be that much of a friend to him. 
"Anyway." Kern stood up and put his palms together. "The hearing is tonight, your arm must be fine in half an hour. Your attorney will want to talk to you as soon as you can come out of the ward."
"I thought you were my attorney."
"I can't," said Kern and ruffled Microsoft's hair making him feel like a naughty child. "I am still a witness, thus, a biased party, I've no right to represent you. But don't worry, the defense is good."
Kern's face lit up with a happy-go-lucky smile as he nodded goodbye. After he left, Arone kept silent for a while, and Microsoft thought she was still bitter because he hadn't told her about Celestro and Ford being related. But when she turned her face to him, she was about to cry again.
"Do you think they'll exile you?" she asked.
"Let's hope not." He pulled her closer to himself and brushed his lips against the red softness of her hair, inhaling its sweetness. "I hope not."

вторник, 9 июля 2013 г.

DISINTEGRATION Chapter XXI The Moment of Truth


Chapter XXI

The Moment of Truth

The day at the psy-center was tedious and incredibly long. With all the recent events on her mind, Sakura found it hard to concentrate on the clients. She tried to convince herself that Celestro wasn't lying to her (again!), but the nagging feeling of apprehension kept eating away at her nerves. The more so since her brother didn't answer any of her flickers. 
She decided to be off early and pay him another visit to have 'the talk', as he called it. She didn't like the idea of being all psychiatric with him, but he had left her no choice.
The last session of the day finished, and she walked along the hallways with a friendly smile nodding 'good-byes' to everyone, and headed out of the building to her car. She had hardly stepped onto the parking platform when someone caught her by the shoulder. She whirled around to see who was so impudent and saw Arone in such a state of distress and despair that she felt an urge to hug her and cradle her in her arms.
"Goodness, Arone, what is the matter?"
"Can we talk?"
Arone's eyes were red and her cheeks were swollen, but dry, though her trembling voice and shivering body betrayed her tearless crying.
"Shall we--" started Sakura beckoning towards the center, but Arone shook her head.
"Can we go somewhere less... psychic?"
"Sure. Let's, um... get into my car."
Sakura's car looked small but was comfortable and quite spacious inside. When they got in, she pushed the seats back to make some more room.
"Okay," said Sakura facing her distressed patient. "Tell me what happened."
"I went to see my... I went to see Micro, because he wasn't available on the essie."
"Good. Did you manage to talk in quiet?"
"I wasn't allowed to see him. Then, I was leaving and there was this man, a colleague of his, he told me that... he told me..."
"You know what they're planning, don't you? Him and Celestro?" The question caught Sakura off guard and she hardly had time to hide her astonishment.
"Why would I know anything?"
"Because you do, and it's not fair that you're not telling me, since it concerns my family. When I talked to you last night... Please, Sakura, I need you to tell me. I feel the ground slipping from under my feet."
"This man you met, did he know something about Microsoft?" said Sakura regaining her cool and deliberately ignoring Arone's plead.
"He... yes--"
"What was it?"
Arone didn't seem to have the strength to argue or stand her ground, so she sighed and the events of the day just poured out of her along with the surfaced tears. When the story was over, Sakura pushed the seats forward and started the car.
"Where are we going?" Sakura's sudden abruptness might have frightened her.
"To pay a visit to Mr.Rawotzki."
"I don't think we can go there just like that. I know him, he won't be willing to see me, not now when he's covering for Micro."
"I'm sure he will see us."
Sakura looked at Arone with a mixture of pain and determination in her eyes.
"Because he's my brother."

Celestro hoped the bath would help him relax, but it actually made things worse: his skin sensitive with anxiety prickled at the touch of hot water.  The bath tub might as well have been an overdried haystack. He tossed and turned, and finally got out. 
As soon as  he touched the floor, hundreds little pores opened up under him and the airflow from beneath dried him up. He put soft white sweat pants on and teleported to his bedroom. 
The room was completely empty, and the lustrous white walls made it look like a brand new laboratory. He stopped in the middle of it and fell backwards. A long ottoman caught him a couple of inches before he hit the floor. With a wave of his hand Celestro unfolded a display above him. He scrolled down the news threads and closed the tab. A red notification to his right got his attention. He blinked twice and the notification opened. It said "Access denied".
"No way, Mr. Matrix bloody Eroglou," he muttered, opening new tabs of figures and symbols. "No way your ass is smarter than mine."
He mind-typed some more symbols, moved the code lines around, opened several programs, but the notification kept popping up, until, finally, a street surveillance video appeared instead of it.
"Ha!" Celestro sat up, moving the display with him. "Who's your hacker, baby?"
He examined the outside of Ford Industries from different camera angles and different points, then looked through them again quicker.
There were no inside cameras. Celestro put his hands behind his head in a helpless gesture. He clicked on the interior displays several times trying to switch them on, but they were still black. They kept blinking at his touch until the familiar notification popped up. This time it said: "Access denied. But nice try."
Celestro scrunched his face in disgust. "Dratting hilarious!"
He threw himself back onto the bed again and rubbed his eyes with one hand.
"You should be alright there, Mikie," he said under his breath. "Everything should be just fine."
His buzzing SC startled him. Causse was giving him notice that someone wanted to see him urgently. Celestro got up, snapped his fingers and one of the walls transformed itself into a wardrobe. He put on a sleeveless crispy shirt of metallic green and black harem pants. On an important day he couldn't look casual. 
When he entered the poinsettia room, as he called it, he was half-expecting to see Microsoft sitting miserably on the white sofa and telling him he'd changed his mind. Instead there was a man who looked far from miserable. The guest reminded Celestro of a wolverine ready to strike.
"Rafael!" Celestro lifted his arms in greeting. "I must say, I couldn't even imagine you would ever want to see me unless you wanted to kill me. Though your look does tell me I'd better keep the distance." 
Celestro leaned back against the wall opposite Rafael, who jumped up and in two strides approached Celestro and glared up at him with fiery eyes. Celestro only raised an eyebrow. After a few moments of intense silence and stares, Rafael spoke.
"You, repulsive stinkin' anusfull of slugshit!" He poked Celestro's bare chest with his finger.
"I guess, it's not a good thing you're touching me, then." Celestro made an attempt to go past his guest, but Rafael pinned him to the wall with his elbow.
"What did you get the poor fella into?" he growled.
"Is there a shiv somewhere you wanna shank me with or can we sit down and you'll tell me why the gatecrash?" Celestro pushed Rafael off himself and marched towards the sofa. He sat on the edge of it, rubbing his hands as anger was building inside him. Rafael still stood at the wall looking so disgusted as if Celestro was literally what he'd just called him.
"If I thought you're even a tidbit worth it, I'd cut out your puke-bubble of a heart right now! Mark my words, slimy devil, you won't get away with it, you won't." Rafael spat on the floor, which made Celestro flinch, and he reminded himself to thank Causse for his prudence to get self-absorbing floor coating. After another moment of heavy silence Celestro let out an impatient and annoyed breath.
"Look," he said in a tired voice, his hand over his eyes. "If you have any more of those graphic adjectives to picture my abominable self, be my guest, take if off your chest. But be quick about it and fuck off."
"Like I'd ever come to your putrid den on my own volition," snapped Rafael. "I'm here because the old bugger asked me to deliver a message."
Celestro went rigid.
"What message?" He struggled to keep his voice steady.
"He wants you to stop whatever dirty tricks you've been plannin' to pull." Rafael approached Celestro and leaned over him as he spoke.
"He said that?"
"He might of used a different wordin', but I reckon you know exactly what it is you have to do, skunk."
"I do," said Celestro. "I have to ask my concierge to show you out and--"
He stood, towering over Rafael, but the little man didn't stir a hair.Distant shouting was heard from behind the wall. Celestro looked back towards the opening where a second later appeared Sakura, her face red with fury. Causse Gantier ran in after her.
"I should really remove you from the digiguard guest list. And perhaps get some better security," said Celestro. "You gotta stop doing it, walking in on my visitors like--that."
He went pale, because Arone step from behind Causse's back and came up to Sakura, her arms crossed on her chest. It seemed the time stood still for a moment. Rafael was the first to speak. He stomped passed Celestro towards Arone, his hand outstretched.
"You're Mikie's girl, innit?" Arone took the hand mechanically, but jerked it back almost instantly.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I'm Rafael, friend of your pot and pan."
"Of my who?"
"Your old man. He showed me your vids, but I gotta say, lass, you're even more stunnin' face to face!"
"Okay, I think now's the right moment for you to leave." Celestro took Rafael by the shoulders and pushed him towards the opening past Arone. As their eyes met, Celestro gave her a wry smile, and she slapped him across the face. He cried out surprised, rather than hurt.
"How could you not tell me she's your sister?" she squeaked.
"You told her?" Celestro gave Sakura a bewildered look.
"It can't go on like this anymore, brother. We all need to talk things through, for everyone's good," said Sakura. The sound of her voice had its usual demulcent effect on all who were present.
Celestro opened his mouth to retort, but his SC flickered. With a mysterious smile he threw the display on the white wall. Everybody turned to the display where the news flash showed Ford Industries. Celestro's face lit up in triumph, Sakura gasped and Rafael caught Arone, who was about to faint.

WiFi was the first to notice that something went wrong. She switched off the air pressure in the tube and Microsoft collapsed. Everyone ran up to the tube and when it opened they pulled the motionless body out. Augustine and IR stared at Matrix - a silent question in their eyes, but before Matrix could say anything, Microsoft gasped and came round.
"What the..." he whispered gaping at everyone.
"You're alive," said Matrix with a strange note in his voice that made Augustine exchange looks with IR. "How do you feel?"
Microsoft felt his legs and arms, muttering, "Something's wrong." As on cue, an annoying beeping signal came from nowhere. WiFi jumped to her feet and unfolded her display.
"He's unfrozen, and in the process of teleporting." She scanned the code lines, and with every symbol her face darkened. "I don't understand... I can't recognize the algorithm." 
Matrix pulled her display closer to himself to have a look and shook his head.
"It's not mine, I've no idea where it came from." He shook WiFi by the shoulders. "Why is the algorithm messed up?"
"Wow, steady!" whispered Microsoft. Everyone turned to find him on one knee halfway to stand up.
"Are you alright?" asked IR examining his eyes. "Your pupils are dilated."
Microsoft felt shaky, and just for a second everything spun around him and got back in place. He shook his head and unconsciously started rubbing the inside of his arm that was itching. When he heard Matrix say his name, it sounded foreign and distant. Then it dawned on him.
"Mat, that memory blocker," he said fighting the overwhelming grogginess and licking his dry lips, "Does it work on any body part?"
"Pretty much," said Matrix still staring at him in disbelief. "The nape's better, though, because it works faster... Why, did you fail to put it in?"
"It doesn't matter now. What happened to the boy?" Microsoft turned to WiFi and struggled to focus his eyes, as the room was growing blurry.
"We don't know yet, we have to--" started WiFi.
"Stop the process! Stop it!" He snatched Matrix by the collar.
"What? Why? We can't, it's done." Matrix turned towards the screen where it said "Operation completed".
"He was gonna kill him! Kill him and make me forget!" yelled Microsoft. "I'm an idiot!" 
He jerked his SC off and threw it to IR. "There's something inside, check it!"
Getting on his feet, Microsoft felt the world spin around again, and the dizziness intensified. He twirled around on the spot, frantically searching for something. When his eyes focused on one of the aquariums, he pushed WiFi and IR aside, took the glass cylinder off the hovertable and smashed it against the floor making everyone gasp. The water spread out carrying small pieces of glass all over the place. Microsoft took a shard and stabbed himself in the arm.
"Are you insane?!" Matrix threw himself forward at Microsoft. "What are you doing?"
Microsoft held the blood-stained glass shred up to guard him off, and Matrix skidded to a halt.
"There's no time!"  Microsoft cut his arm open, howling through his teeth, and stuck his fingers under his skin. The transparent wafer slipped down Microsoft's shaking palm and into the puddle of blood and water. It dissolved having hardly touched the floor. 
Microsoft leaned back against the table, blood trickling down his arm and fingers, but the dizziness was gone. The pain had cleared up his mind.
"Why do you have a memory blocker in your arm?" asked Augustine, and he sounded more curious than appalled. But Microsoft didn't have time to answer, because the next moment Ford stormed into the room. He came to a sudden halt, taken aback by the scene that opened before his eyes, and stared blankly at Microsoft. Then his glare moved to Matrix who started as if waking up from a bad dream and shifted uneasily.
"Mr.Ford," said Matrix, but Ford stopped him with a gesture.  By the stiffness in Ford's every muscle and harshness of his breath Microsoft knew immediately that he'd read the letter, which meant he knew everything, including, Microsoft suddenly realized, that Matrix hadn't kept Ford's order a secret and was now in big trouble. 
Matrix stole a swift sideways look at Microsoft, which wasn't angry, but rather desperate and apprehensive. Microsoft cursed himself internally for being so self-absorbed that he hadn't thought of the consequences his death-bed confession to Ford would have for Matrix.
"Has the boy teleported?" Ford asked.
"Yes, but-- there seems to be a complication." Matrix's voice wavered, he looked terrified.
"I can see that," said Ford.
"We don't know for sure--" went on Matrix.
"So, go and find out." Ford put an emphasis on the word 'go', and when no one moved he jerked his thumb towards the exit. "I said leave us!" 
"Not you," he added when Microsoft was about to follow everyone out. A few moments passed before Microsoft was alone with the biggest fear of his life. 
Ford fiddled with his SC and seemed to have lost interest in the bleeding man who stood silently before him, but after a while a pledget dropped out of the SC onto Fords hand. He reached the pledget to Microsoft.
"We'd better take care of that before we talk." He said nodding at the bleeding arm. "I don't want you to black out before I tell you why you're not my son."