пятница, 20 сентября 2013 г.




Dying is one of those things that 
can’t be fixed. Not by talking about it, 
not with all the brain surge in the world. 
Scott Westerfeld, Extras

There was no music. People on the roof danced in a mad chaos, some of them moved in frenzy jerks, some of them writhed against each other, some jumped up and down, some stomped. It wasn't anything extraordinary to watch for Microsoft, he was used to see free clubbing on roofs. Quite a recent trend, it'd caught on very quickly. It was ingenious, Microsoft thought, to come to a party of people dancing in silence, hearing their own music in their heads. 
They could listen to the music offered by the club, as soon as they stepped into the radius a playlist would appear on their SCs; they could listen to music of their choice or just go to guest playlists and tune in to any person who was there in the club. If you wanted to talk you would just switch the music off or turn the volume down and talk quietly without having to shout over the heavy beats slamming out of the speakers. 
He lay on a couch in Ranke Park. The indigenous population of the Art Quarter called it Cranky Park, and quite rightfully so. Everything there was different from what a person was used to; trees grew sideways, some of them hovering in the air, virga fountains where water evaporated hardly reaching the ground hung upside down, sculptures moved around, beds and couches of different shapes and colors served as benches. 
Those people on the roof, Microsoft thought, gazing wistfully at the dancing crowd, looked cranky too. What a desperate desire for companionship and what an utter loneliness it was to be there! In a different life Microsoft would probably go up there, tap on the shoulder of a pretty girl, ask her name, tune in with her and dance all night long. But after the trial had been over, after Ford had been imprisoned and Microsoft resigned from Ford Industries, after Celestro had finally been shipped away, Microsoft's life proved to be rid of fun once and for all. Loneliness was the single companion he was comforted by. He would go out into crowds just to be alone. 
He turned on his back and watched the sky grow dark. Hoverlanterns whooshed towards him and drifted over his head like bees over a flower. He waved them away and closed his eyes. People ran around, screaming code words at each other. Real-life gamers, he guessed. 
Someone put a hand on his shoulder and Microsoft opened his eyes with a start half-expecting to see a skinny teenager with flickering i-contacts who had mistaken Microsoft for a game character, but instead there was Rafael. Microsoft made a feeble attempt to smile, but he knew he was oozing annoyance, and couldn't help it.
"Still ain't feelin' in need of a friend?" said Rafael. He pushed Microsoft's legs of the couch and plopped down beside him. Microsoft sat up reluctantly, but didn't answer.
"De Ritz tells me you've been comin' here every day since that slug got shipped off."
Still silence.
"Dunno 'bout you, but I'm glad it's all over."
"Nothing is over," snapped Microsoft. "Nothing will ever be over."
"B-limey! I was starting to think you took a vow of silence. But lo, he speaks!"
"What did you come here for, Raf?" Microsoft turned to Rafael with his whole body. 
"To see you, of course, old bugger. Why else?"
"Well, I think you've accomplished your mission brilliantly. Could you leave me alone now, please?" 
The nonchalant expression left Rafael's face at once as if he'd chucked away an annoying mask. Worry curved his small forehead.
"First thing you did when your memories came back was come see my decrepit ass," said Rafael. "You need me. You may huff'n'puff all you want, but I can see right through this spiteful hermit act of yours, my boy. And we'll talk, even if I have to tether you to my ankle."
Microsoft felt a prick of pain in his heart when Rafael called him 'my boy'. For a moment he was torn between two equally overpowering desires, to run away or to bury his face in Rafael's leather jacket and scream his heart out. For fear of breaking down and doing either of those, Microsoft sat still, motionless.
Rafael took Microsoft's lack of reaction as the green light to start speaking. "I know the world seems a bloody apocalypse for you right now. Lie is the deadliest weapon ever invented by a man. One person betrayed you and now all people must seem like a blur of lies for ya--"
"One person?" Microsoft let out a bitter scoff.
"How long haven't you spoken to your lady?"
"Since I was released. The sight of her makes me sick."
"Are you perfect?" said Rafael. "All this world's a picture of imperfection. Global scandal, they say. Buy ya know what? There's nothin' global, just ambitions of a conceited bastard of a son who thought he was better that his own shit. The world that comes apart cuz of one whiny kid is a messed up world, I'm tellin' ya."
"It may burn for all I care."
 "Aw, spare me that look. Are you so bloody innocent? If I was the judge, I'd shove your sorry ass behind bars in no time, just for sulking. Think what you have done. Your lady, she wouldn't have done nothin' if you hadn't been so bloody blinded by the foolish revenge of yours. If you just for a moment had thought of her and not yourself!"
Microsoft's mouth dropped open. He'd braced himself for being comforted, pitied and assured, but he wasn't ready for a blunt accusal. 
"You're saying it's all my fault?"
"I'm sayin' if you crap your pants, get used to the smell. We all shit our beds from time to time, son, but we all still come to sleep in them, ain't we?"
"Don't-- call me son!" Microsoft choked on his own words.
"I'll be callin' ya whatever I may see fit!" Rafael jumped to his feet to face Microsoft. "Don't tell me what I ought and oughtn't to do! Damn you, slugger, you think sittin' here feelin' miserable will make the world a better place? Well, guess what, it won't. Life'll always be shit. See those bastards there?" Rafael shot his hand up pointing at the dancing crowd on the roof. 
"They don't give a diddly-squat whether you're sulkin' here or jerkin' off, whether you live or die. This life's all you have, like it or not. But you know what? You fall, you wipe the shit off your face and you friggin' get up, you do, because when you've crapped all over your life and you drool in self-pity wishin' you'd drown in your own schmaltz, there are other people who're left with that crap of yours! Your girl, you sniveling urchin, is sure to be cuttin' her wrists open while you're twiddlin' your useless thumbs on a park couch."
While Rafael spoke, Microsoft went from being too cold to being too hot several times. The words seemed to nail him to the couch, so he couldn't move a muscle or utter a single sound. He'd never seen Rafael so furious before. When Rafael finally fell silent, catching his breath, Microsoft started shivering on the inside in a feverish fit, and after a moment of heavy silence realized he was expected to say something, but his mind refused to think straight.
"I...can't," was all he could squeeze out of himself.
"Are you some kinda cripple?" Rafael's look was unbearable, and Microsoft turned away. "Your pretty missis was betrayed and lied to seven shades to Sunday just like you were, whatever the world revolves around, bugger, I'm damn sure it's not you."
"Such a puny world it would be, then, if it were revolving around me." Microsoft heaved a breath, the shock losing its grip on him as Rafael soften up a little.
"There we go," said Rafael, his friendly tone finally restored, "I say, sarcasm is a sign of life in a stinky corpse. I knew you could still be salvaged, pup."
Microsoft shook his head, pressing away an uncertain smile.
"Anyway." Rafael sat back down on the couch. His tone of voice was now strangely different which made Microsoft's mind spring to attention. "Don't take no grouch against me, old bugger, I didn't mean to gun you down like this. I wouldn't even have come here if I hadn't been asked to. There's someone who wants a word with ya."
Microsoft's stomach tightened. It'd been almost two months since he last saw Arone. The moment he had been free to go, he had rented a room in a guest house in the Art Quarter and had lived there ever since. She hadn't tried to call him or look for him, which was so unlike her that there had been times when Microsoft was about to rush home and see if she was even alive. He had been dreading the moment of their meeting, because he was desperate to see her, but so full of bile that he was afraid he'd do or say something and lose her forever. His heart battered against his chest, but was it joy or fear?
Rafael fished a box out of his pocket and handed it to Microsoft. There was a pair of I-contacts inside. Was she too scared to come in person? Or too sick? Or worse, couldn't care less? 
"Put 'em on," said Rafael and stretched out against the back of the couch. Microsoft obeyed, and after a moment his SC connected with the i-contacts, and there was an incoming flick. Microsoft blinked to answer, not after a slight hesitation, and a clear image sprang before his eyes as if there was a real person standing in front of him. He felt a pang of disappointment and relief at the same time, that person wasn't Arone.
"Hey...Mat." Microsoft tried to remember Matrix's real name, but gave up. Matrix smiled. He seemed happy to see his friend.
"It's Tensorfield, Tensorfield Riemann, not that it matters much." Matrix had lost weight, dark half-moons under his eyes made him look even more rueful that he used to be, though his face brightened up slightly as he smiled.
"Sounds way swagger than Matrix Eroglou." Microsoft smiled back. "Pity you couldn't keep the name."
"Hell of a name to lose, I know," said Matrix. "How've you been, man? I followed the news feeds, it's quite a mess the Ford's made."
"Yeah, I hear the company's going to be taken over. I quit."
"I thought so. What about everyone else?"
"Pretty much scattered. When I was resigning, only Icon and Mallory were still there. The rest of the team left, but I haven't talked to anyone lately."
Matrix looked a little disappointed.
"Well, I guess it's been crazy time for you."
"Still is. How're you getting by?"
"Keeping my head down for a while. It's a hard world to hide in, but I have a way. While the big guns are busy clearing up the debris of ZP and Ford Industries, the path is relatively free. I'll be fine."
Matrix fell silent, and Microsoft frowned. Something unspoken was trying to break out of Matrix like a bird out of a snare.
"You know it wasn't your fault, don't you?" Matrix asked.
"Nor was it yours," said Microsoft and added after a pause, "I was meaning to see his mother, Diod's mother. I wanted to...apologize, I don't know. I couldn't bring myself to it."
"Nothing you'll say will make it up to her. She has her own life to struggle with, and you have yours."
"I know, I just...I guess I wanted to get it off my chest." 
Matrix gave Microsoft a sympathetic look, but there was something else behind it. The death of Diod Medina wasn't the thing Matrix wanted to get off his chest.
"You want a favor, don't you?" Microsoft knew he was right by the way Matrix's face changed.
"It's okay, it's just..."
"I'll do it, Mat. Whatever it is."
Matrix raised his eyebrows in surprise. Rafael could only hear Microsoft talking without seeing the projection of Matrix, but even he leaned forward to see if it was really Microsoft who had just proclaimed himself ready for action. 
"When I ran, there was no way for me to get in touch with anyone. I was lucky enough to have connections in the Art Quarter. That's how I found Rafael and sent him the i-contacts. Could you find Stallone and give her these i-contacts you're wearing now? It's the only way to get in touch with me."
"Stallone?" Microsoft sounded almost rudely dumbfounded even to himself. He didn't know what he expected to hear, maybe, that Matrix would ask him to find connections to get him out of the country, get access to his files at work, lend money or anything else along those lines, but even on the run, in constant danger, lacking sleep and most likely shelter and food, it seemed Stallone Rivers was all Mat wanted.
"You said you would do--"
"Yes, of course." Microsoft hurried to make up for his reaction. "I'll find her."
"Could you tell her I'm so sorry. Tell her, whatever pain she feels I wish I could bear it for her, and...and if she ever can forgive me...if she can ever stand looking at me again, she can use the i-contacts. I'll be waiting for her. However long it takes."
Microsoft didn't know what to say. There was a man before him who was so desperate to fix things, to get together with the love of his life, but the terrible circumstances would probably never allow it. And there was him, sitting like a pouting child over a broken toy, proud, weak and most of all stupid.  He had all the chances of mending his love life and threw the chances away. Rafael was right. As always
"I just wish it wasn't too late," said Matrix and the words sounded to Microsoft as though he said them himself.
"I'll do it, I'll find her, don't worry."
"Thank you. Live long and prosper, I guess." Matrix raised his hand forming a 'V' sign between his fingers.
"Good luck, Mat, and take care." The next moment the night came rushing into Microsoft's eyes as the i-contacts flickered off. He took them out and put gently into the box. Rafael opened his mouth to say something, but Microsoft was already up on his feet. 
"Raf, you've the most amazing decrepit ass there is, and I'd still come see it, even if it started crumbling to dust." He punching the old man in the shoulder.
"Well, you know damn well where your ass got to be right now," said Rafael with a playful grumble.
"And I intend to take it there." Microsoft hurried along the crooked path of multicolored gravel towards the exit of the park.

All it took was a touch of his SC, but that simple movement suddenly seemed so hard and complicated that Microsoft stared at the glowing square of the lock like it was a particularly difficult mathematical problem. What would he say? How should he behave? How should he stand? Where to put his hands? Jumping into an abyss would be easier now, he felt. He leaned on the door, closed his eyes and took a deep breath for a hundredth time, and accidentally touched the lock. He almost fell tumbling over himself into the apartment. 
There was no light inside. Was she gone?
He closed the opening with a wave of his hand and tiptoed to the main room. It was dark there too, only the sofa dimly glowed blue. He sat down on it and watched the fish come to life under him.  When he had seen Stallone lit up with joy as she had heard about Matrix, when she'd smiled at Microsoft like he was the Messiah, it had given him so much confidence, so much assurance that he'd see the same things at home. He expected the same happiness, forgiveness, acceptance. He was now in his apartment, and none of those were in the air. Nothing felt right. 
As soon as he stepped inside, he knew it was going to be different. Arone wasn't Stallone Rivers, she wasn't anyone but Arone Stevenson, a woman who had betrayed him once, but still a woman he didn't deserve a single hair of. 
Determination rose in him and he made as if to stand up, but light went on, and he squinted with a start. When he opened his eyes, adjusting to the light, his heart went still. Arone stood at the opening in her blue gauzy night gown, looking mortified. 
They both didn't move and kept staring at each other for what seemed to be an eternity. Slowly her face changed, softened up, her lips trembled and the always so annoying but oh-so-dear and familiar eyelashes fluttered like wings of a disturbed butterfly.
He ached to run to her and hug her, but his legs felt heavy. She made a cautious step forward and her gown heaved as she breathed in, the next moment she was caving in like a shot animal. Microsoft raced towards her and caught her inches away from the floor. He pulled her up to her feet, and their eyes met. 
"I hate you," she said. 
Her tone was impassive. She sounded like she would drop dead the next moment, and Microsoft's head started spinning. But she didn't drop dead, she slid her arms around him and clutched the back of his jacket. Then she began to cry, her sobs muffled against his chest. 
He held her tighter. She was saying something, but with her face pressed against him and the short breaths shaking her body, he could hardly make out a word. He knew one thing, though, she didn't hate him, she loved him even more than he could ever imagine. His chest tightened.
"I'm sorry," he said, "I'm so sorry."
She clung to him as Stallone had been clinging to the box with the i-contacts. For the first time in months he felt safe and full of hope. For the first time in months he didn't want to ever be alone again.

четверг, 19 сентября 2013 г.

DISINTEGRATION Chapter XXV The Last Day (continued)


Chapter XXV
The Last Day (continued)

"Facts don't change, they are solid rocks to build our judgement on," said Sir Payne and made sure the judges realized how solid the 'rocks' were by squeezing imaginative boulders in his hands. "What does change is a story. Stories are made up, like the story you heard from our good Mr. Adrian Verlander about his misadventure in the elevator shaft. 90% of the population of this country don't even know what an elevator shatf is, but he just happened to turn up there, hit his head, while his SC miraculously teleported to the training room. However, the proof is conveniently gone, so here's what we're left with, here are the facts: Mr. Verlander goes in, Mr. Stevenson goes in at a different floor, Mr. Stevenson comes out alone on the first floor , Mr. Verlander is later found in the elevator shaft on the first floor with a sore head, his SC is found in the training room where the failed rescue operation had taken place, the surveillance video of the staircase is gone due to a technical error. Coincidence? I doubt it. Can we believe Mr. Verlander who was trying to cover for Mr. Stevenson, his close friend and collegue? We can't blame him either."
Lyonel jumped to his feet. "Objection, your Honor, councel is testifying."
"Oh, please, Mr. Gregaros, just stating the fact," said Payne.
"Based on your speculations. And my name is Geragos."
"Not speculations, a logical conclusion." Payne turned an expectant look to Judge Ketch.
"Overruled," said Ketch, without raising his eyes from his surface display.
Lyonel sat back heavily.
"Mr. Gregaros...sorry, Mr. Geragos, you are quite an afficionado of speculations yourself, I might say." Payne squinted cunningly at Lyonel. "How about we play a little game called 'Facts and Guesses'? I'll give you an example. You made it clear that you think Mr. Rawotzki is guilty, I say he's not, these are two guesses. You say Mr. Rawotzki is the man behind the plan to kill Diod Medina, surely a guess, the fact is, though, it was Mr. Stevenson who approached Mr. Rawotzki. Twice. Both times with an idea of his own." 
Payne turned back to the judges and continued in a loud voice. 
"Mr. Geragos says my client is an expert in memory-blocking, which one might assume of the CEO of a Top Tech Ten company, but the fact is, ZP has never produced memory blockers or had anything to do with the technology. Mr. Rawotzki's never worked for the government, never acquired all the necessary knowledge and skills to perform memory blocking, unlike the infamous fugitive who is being wanted at the moment. 
"Mr. Geragos says my client allegedly created a program and messed with the algorithm which led to the death of an innocent boy, a good theory, except for the fact," he made a pause before he accentuated the word 'fact', "that Mr. Rawotzki didn't have access to the impenetrable database of Ford Industries, he didn't have the program of time travel, devised by the well-known fugitive who was also the leader of the rescue team and the only one who had full access to and full knowledge of the whole process. A question to you, Mr. Lyonel."
Sir Payne turned abruptly to Microsoft's lawyer and smiled.
"Have you ever seen Hugh Jackman?"
"Who?" Lyonel looked confused.
"An actor called Hugh Jackman, he was famous almost a century ago. And don't worry it's relevant, I'm getting to it. So, have you?"
"No," said Lyonel and pursed his lips.
"Can you make an impression of him?
"What? Of course, not." Lyonel folded his arms.
"So, I thought. A person can't make anything similar to the original if a person has never seen the original. Mr. Rawotzki couldn't have created an algorithm similar to the algorithm created by Mister, what was his name? Mister Tensorfield Riemann, because he couldn't have had the original algorithm. Thus, he couldn't have been the one to pay the Doodads employees to install the program on Mr. Stevenson's SC, because he didn't have the program in the first place. Lastly, Mr. Geragos argues that the murder was a big fat master plan that Mr. Rawotzki had been working on for five years. (I'm sorry if my terminology wasn't very precise.) An awful amount of time, 5 years, isn't it? Your Honors, do you remember what you have done over the past 5 years?"
The UN Judges exchanged confused glances. The direct address and the piercing look of Sir Payne made them wonder for a moment if they were supposed to answer that. Payne continued before any of them spoke.
"Has anyone of you been cooking a plan to take revenge on your imperfect father who repented, confessed to you, gave you an invaluable opportunity to get the best knowledge and experience in technology you could ever get in this country, and provided you with the start-up capital so you could make in into the TTT several years later?" Payne raised his eyebrows. 
"Such a bastard of a father, isn't he? How could he!" Payne poured as much sarcasm into his phrase as he could. "Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? You know why? Because it is. The only reason Mr. Rawotzki kept his kinship secret was the desire to be independent, have an unbiased public appreciation and keep Mr. Ford's reputation intact. Where is malice, I ask myself? Where is rage and evil? The fact is, your Honors and the Honorable Panel, that Mr. Rawotzki came to his father the very moment he'd learned Mr. Ford was in trouble and offered his assistance. Mr. Ford refused and later at the press conference Mr. Rawotzki was defending him, you all saw him, you all heard him.
"So," Payne lifted his index finger, "Mr. Geragos says Mr. Rawotzki had a clear motive, which is revenge on the father who had abandoned him. Now ask yourselves: How is it a motive enough for my client whose father fully redeemed himself and not a motive for Mr. Stevenson who thought Mr. Ford was his father and thought Mr. Ford didn't give a damn about him? Who is more motivated to take revenge in this case?"
Sir Payne fell silent and stood still for a while letting the question sink in before coming up closer to the Judges and continuing in a low quiet voice that seemed to creep under the skin.
"The crime is vicious and atrocious, but it doesn't justify accusing anyone other than the guilty man of it. 'Faith is confidence in things unseen', they say, but here, in court, it's not the faith we're trying to rely on, it's proof beyond reasonable doubt, and that is achieved by seeing things and knowing the facts. Have faith in what you see, Ladies and Gentlemen, have faith in the facts you know, in your heart when it doubts that Mr. Rawotzki, a respectable and charitable citizen of our country, could have done anything wrong; have faith in the evidence that proves Mr. Rawotzki's innocence." He enjoyed another moment of silence and added, "Have faith, because Mr. Rawotzki has put his faith in you."
For an instant there Micorosoft felt like the walls would cave in and bury him under their deadly weight, he felt like all hope and joy had been sucked out of him with that solemn breath Sir Payne drew in when he sat back down beside Celestro. 
He hardly noticed the Judge announcing that the court would retire to consider the verdict and only the sharp voice of the clerk in his head jolted him out of his near-delirious state. Micorosoft blinked at Lyonel.
"How long have they been deliberating?" he said as the Judges were taking their seats again.
"About 15 minutes." Lyonel looked a little taken aback by the question. "Are you unwell? You're pallid."
Microsoft didn't answer. Judge Ketch stood up and announce the verdict in a monotonous string of words.
"The defendant Mr. Celestro Rawotzki a.k.a. Mr. Celestro Aurelis Ford is unanimously acquitted of all charges." 
Micorosoft gave Celestro an incredulous look only to see the man's mouth quirk into a ghost of a smile. When Celestro raised his eyes at Micorosoft, his look wasn't that of a triumph, as Micorosoft expected. On the contrary, there was pain and apprehension, and one more thing Micorosoft had never thought Celestro could feel, genuine fear. He looked at Ketch and then back at Micorosoft again when Micorosoft realized the Judge was saying his name.
"Mr. Stevenson, are you listening to me?" Judge Ketch stared at the defendant in contempt.
"Yes... I'm sorry, I've been distracted. You've got my full attention." Microsoft stood up facing the Judge.
"Mr. Microsoft Stevenson, the court has found you guilty of treason, corporate misdemeanor, conspiracy against the state and murder of a fourteen-year-old Diod Medina." 
Micorosoft went cold on the inside but didn't move a muscle.
"Considering the severity of the crime and the danger to the society, the court sentences you to a life exile to the north pole and complete memory removal." 
The last thing Microsoft heard before his head started buzzing and a noxious feeling came over him was Lyonel gasp. Microsoft gave Celestro a painful look that seemed to say: "That's what you wanted, isn't it?" Celestro, however, sat half-turned and stared up at the wall behind him. 
Microsoft followed his gaze and realized it wasn't the wall Celestro stared at. Back there, hardly visible behind a shimmering curtain of a spyscreen, there were blurred images of people Microsoft hadn't noticed before. Among those people there was an outline of a girl, clasping her mouth with both hands, her shoulders shaking with sobs, her red hair streaming down and almost covering her face. Microsoft swallowed hard. Arone had been there the whole time and he hadn't even once glanced back at her. Through the buzz and commotion in his head Microsoft made out Celestro's voice. 
"I'd like to make a statement." Celestro stood up. Now all eyes were on him. His perfect face was still and flushed, his hands shook a little.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Rawotzki?" said Judge Ketch. "You want to make a statement for the press?"
"No, I'd like to make a statement to you."
"Your Honor, my client is confused--" began Sir Payne.
"I'm not, but I apologize as I might have confused the court." 
Celestro stepped from behind the table and went towards the stand. When he mounted it, he looked up. His eyes rested on the silhouette of Arone.
"All the evidence in my favor is a lie," he said. His voice was trembling. "I've planned everything from the very beginning, and I can prove it just by giving you access to my personal virtual room."
He slid an air display open on his SC, typed something in, and the Judges looked down on their surface display in bewilderment. 
"You can see the algorithm, the secret files from the Ford Industries, everything I could find when I hacked into the system, which may sound impossible, but as you see it's not. Five years ago I tricked Microsoft Stevenson into helping me get access to some information that Matrix... Tensorfield Riemann had. Tensorfield handed him his SC for redesigning and I copied everything there was. I had a plan to take revenge on Ford, and Mike felt he had to tell Ford he was his son. I needed to do something to prevent it. So, I arranged for him to come to my house one night, when his wife Arone was there." He didn't take his eyes off her as he was speaking. "I drugged her and manipulated her mind into thinking she slept with me. I had a girl who looked like her. I made it seem we were having... sex in my orchard when Mike came in. It was dark and he didn't stay to check if it was Arone he'd seen."
"What?" Microsoft whispered under his breath.
"The girl had an eye camera, so Arone dreamed and saw everything the girl saw. When Arone woke up, she thought she'd cheated on her partner, she...she was on the verge of despair. I seized the chance to execute my plan and convinced her to put a memory blocker into Microsoft's head. I learned the technology from Tensorfield's files. I just didn't tell her the blocker was temporal and removable."
Microsoft felt the ground slip from under his feet, he staggered and Lyonel steadied him and helped him sink back into his chair. 
"She did what I said," Celestro went on. "It took me five years to gather knowledge and come up with a new plan. I studied the teleportation process, and as ZP reached the first place in the world ratings I made an announcement that we were going to open our own teleportation line. It was a distraction. I made fake licenses and had it sold to three random teenagers, I knew one of them will be stuck between dimensions, I also knew that disintegration theory was total crap to simplify the teleportation technology for the general public. I'd studied the options before and realized Ford had only one thing to do to get the boy out. Time travel. I also realized I make the plan work alone."
Celestro spoke fast, as if he was afraid he'd be interrupted, but nobody dared to even move. The judges gaped at him with an expression of pure horror frozen on their faces. Payne had leaned forward and sat with his head in his hands. Lyonel was biting his lip so hard that it'd turned blue.
"I called Arone's company and asked for her specifically to be the designer for my mansion. I talked her into removing the blocker from Mr. Stevenson's head. When Microsoft remembered everything he came to me with an intention to expose Ford's crime and I used him to install the algorithm that would kill Diod Medina, because I knew that Ford could fight off the allegations of using time-travel, but the death of the boy will destroy the company and the man forever. Nor Microsoft Stevenson, nor Tensorfield Riemann had any idea what was happening behind their backs. I was all just me. The only crime Microsoft committed is that he trusted me."
At that moment the eyes of the two men met, and something sparked between them. The next movement Microsoft made was so swift and sudden that everyone jumped to their feet only when Celestro was already on the floor with Microsoft's fingers locked around his neck. Celestro showed no signs of resistance. 
Lyonel was the first to reach Microsoft. The lawyer grabbed his client with both arms and tore him off Rawotzki, whispering something feverishly into his ear at that. Rawotzki was still lying passively on the floor coughing until Payne pulled him up onto his feet. Microsoft tried to struggle himself out of Lyonel's clasp, his face white with rage, but Lyonel was surprisingly strong. 
"You, son of a--" Microsoft shouted but broke off, because tears burst free. He swallowed back the pressing sobs, and stood panting heavily. He wiped his cheeks with his cuffed hands.
"Come on, Mike, let's go out," said Lyonel and half-dragging Microsoft out of the court room. They almost bumped into the guards who rushed in to cuff Celestro. 
"Mike," he called stertorously, "Mike!" 
Microsoft turned around to see the guards snatch Celestro by the arms on both sides of him.
"I'm sorry!" shouted Celestro. "I'm so sorry."
The words made Microsoft sick. Although said with as much pain as could possibly be put into the words, they had nothing in them, not even a sound, not even a hint of the intonation or a shade of despair and anguish, that could redeem even a modicum of what had been done. 
Microsoft let Lyonel push himself out of the room and into the hands of Arone, who had appeared out of nowhere and thrown her arms around him. She buried her wet face against his collarbone and shook. Microsoft stood still with his cuffed hands pressed against his wife's stomach. He didn't feel relief, he didn't feel comforted, he didn't feel anything at all as if his heart had been taken out. Only one desire burned inside the emptiness of his chest: to be left alone.

среда, 4 сентября 2013 г.



Chapter XXIV

The Last Day

As soon as the opening dispersed, Microsoft made a dart for the window and punched it so hard with both hands that it would have shattered to pieces, had it been breakable. He put his head to the cool pane and watched threads of rain racing each other down the window. A soft tap on the shoulder made him jump and almost triggered another fit of anger, but it was Lyonel. Microsoft breathed out, embarrassed by his own temper.
"Well?" he asked. "How did I do?"
"You did you best," said Lyonel with an encouraging nod. "There is no talking sense into the man. Like you said, he is a coward. Blaming everything on a fugitive criminal may be clever and logical, but I doubt he'll miss a chance to pin the whole thing on you. We could try to lock him up for forgery, but he'll probably bail himself out before the judge says 'guilty'."
"Any progress with Ford?"
"Ford is wrecked. He gave us all he knew, but it's hard. He's not exactly a chatbox at the moment. And for the most part it's just words. What we lack is facts. However," Lyonel stressed the last word. "The truth is on our side. Everything put together, your innocence is the most obvious conclusion."
"Too bad the evidence doesn't agree with you." There was a bit too much bitterness in Microsoft's voice that he'd meant to have.
"Not all evidence."
"Look, Lyonel, I appreciate your optimism, but once you've opened a jar of worms, there's no amount of cream you put on top that would make me eat them."
"Optimism's all we got," said Lyonel, but Microsoft was already walking away.

"All rise!" cut through Microsoft's head and he winced. He thought two weeks of trial would get him used to hear the sharp voice of the court clerk piercing his head from the inside, but it only got worse. He looked down at his handcuffs that writhed around his wrists like an electric eel and wished again he had his SC on. The sound transmission through handcuffs was horrible. Besides, every time the clerk spoke, his wrists burned, and pain pierced his head like a needle.
"The honorable Judge Ketch is preceding." 
Microsoft stood up stretching his neck to ease the headache.
"Are you alright?" whispered Lyonel who, too, looked worn out by the endless hearings, but inspite of that he sounded optimistic.
"Fine," said Microsoft.
"Today's the wrap. Just hold on for a little longer, okay?"
The judge entered the court room and took his place. He didn't look exhausted, rather bored to death as if everything was as clear as day to him and he hated the formality of another hearing. 
Oddly enough, Microsoft felt the same way; his odds to win were very poor, and all he wanted was to get it over with as soon as possible. Lyonel, on the contrary, got more and more passionate as the trial proceeded. Today he was drawing on his last energy, he was perfervid, the word that fitted Lyonel so well it could be his name. 
He squeezed Microsoft's shoulder with an optimistic smile and tapped thoughtlessly on the table. Microsoft wondered if Lyonel had an ace up his sleeve or he was just trying to keep his cool in the eyes of the opposite party - Celestro Rawotzki. Celestro stared emotionlessly at the judge.
His hound of a lawyer, Sir Payne, was as conceited as his first name and as merciless as his last name suggested. With his sharp cheekbones and small dark eyes, he had something of a doberman's viciousness about him. In his opening speech, during cross-examinations and presentations, he smashed down every Lyonel's argument, and what he couldn't smash he parried in a dexterous and elegantly bilious manner. Now he eyed Lyonel like a hunter about to shoot a clueless deer.
When the voice in Microsoft's head invited everyone to sit down, he stole a quick glance around the room. It looked small and empty, dull green like everything else in the Federal buildings. The judge was sulking on a dais, to his left there were three independent judges from the UN; two of them looked Asian, and one Caribbean, but Microsoft couldn't quite place them. The counsels of defense were sitting opposite the judge, and because Sir Payne liked to address his 'bull's eye' remarks to the wall behind the judges, Microsoft knew that's where the panel of jury was, hidden behind a spy screen. The whole thing reminded Microsoft of a gaming tournament finale. It felt much more real than a gaming contest, though, painfully real. 
Microsoft wondered if there was audience somewhere behind the walls, he could see no one else around, no prosecution either, which was quite a precedent. However, it had been Judge Ketch's irrevocable decision. 
The hearing the day before had turned into a fierce slugfest between the arduous prosecutor, turning his summation into a quest to heap the charges on both defendants with flat-out insults. The zealous Lyonel objected to his every word, while the wall of defense of the impervious Sir Payne hadn't seemed to budge an inch. Somewhere towards the end of the debate Judge Ketch had lost his patience.
"I will not tolerate this juvenile rough-and-tumble any more. Let's reduce this crowd of roosters. Tomorrow there will be order or there will be measures!" That was the phrase that ended the previous day. Hence, the prosecution wasn't allowed to be present on the last day.
Microsoft swallowed to push back a bitter lump in his throat, it would give him more hope if he could see anyone dear to him, even anyone from the team. But the testimonies had been given and there was the last thing to endure, the two final blows, one from each counsel of defense.
Celestro, who Microsoft used to consider his best friend, had never even looked in his direction, not once. He just sat there, confident and striking as usual in his white gold threaded slim slacks which merged with his skins at the hipline as if they were a part of his body. The intrinsic letters tattooed on his stomach were partly visible between the sides of his unbuttoned linen trench coat which changed from fluorescent white to metallic grey in the light. Microsoft couldn't understand whether Celestro was angry, scared or didn't give a damn, but his line of defense had proved that he had no intention of direct opposition. Sir Payne was putting more effort into clearing Celestro's name than into besmirching Microsoft's. With an incipient glimpse of hope Microsoft watched Lyonel stand up and walk towards the dais after the Judge had told him to begin.
"Your Honor and the Distinguished Panel," said Lyonel with a slight bow, "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury". Lyonel bowed again then turned around and greeted Sir and Celestro with a nod. "Mister Payne, Mister Ford."
When Lyonel stressed the name 'Ford', Celestro didn't raise his head, and only a slight heave of his shoulders gave away his soundless snort.
"I'm looking around today," Lyonel turned back to the Judge, "and an image is conjured up in my mind. An image of certain women before a certain wise king who were claiming a certain baby. One of those women was lying, and no one could prove which one. So the king made a harsh decision to split the baby. Both women reacted in a certain way to this atrocious proposition, which gave the king the final clue. Because actions, we all know, speak louder than words. 
"Today I am devastated to say that in our case the heinous thing did happen; the baby was split, and we have two people here one of whom is lying. I say one, because I trust my client, Mr. Stevenson, and I believe his story. I believe him because his actions and his reaction convince me. Since it's not my job to accuse, I won't talk about why someone is lying."
Lyonel stole a sideways glance at Sir Payne half-expecting him to object, but the man was quiet, leaned back leisurely in his chair as if he was watching a news feed.
"I'll show you," Lyonel continued, "why Mr. Stevenson is telling the truth and why you should believe me when I say that he is completely innocent. He didn't kill or plan to kill Diod Medina. Mr. Stevenson's acquittal may not preclude acquittal of Mr. Ford Junior, but his acquittal is the most obvious end of today's hearing to me. 
"The prosecution urged you yesterday to see that both parties are responsible, but I urge you today to trust your common sense and wisely evaluate the actions, because, as it was said yesterday, neither of the defendants can be taken by their words. Don't take Mr. Stevenson by his word, but remember that it was him who had cried out first, it was him who had cut his own flesh just to be able to tell you what had happened. It was Mr. Stevenson, the only one of the two I might add, who ultimately took the stand and left no ace up his sleeve. We had witnesses to confirm his words.
"He could've let the blocker work, he could've even cast guilt upon one of his team mates, but he chose not to. Mr. Stevenson chose to tell you the truth. Only an innocent man who seeks justice would react like Mr. Stevenson did, isn't that true? Does a guilty man come forward or does he stay in the shadows trying to keep his head down? I'll let you decide about that. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury and Distinguished Panel, you were repeatedly told yesterday that there is a Russian doll of crimes in this case. I'd like to be clear on that today. I'd like you to be on the same page with me, and only one word is written on my page, this word is murder. We're not talking about information disclosure, we're not talking about corporate conspiracy, we're not talking about violating the international time travel law, the issue here is who killed a fourteen-year-old boy. I am hundred percent sure of two things today. I don't know who killed Diod Medina and I know Mr. Stevenson didn't."
Lyonel Geragos made a pause, looked each judge in the eyes and then past them in the invisible eyes of each member of the Jury.
"Have you ever been falsely accused?" he asked, raising his voice. "Your sibling stole a cookie and you got it in the neck? Your classmate talked loudly in class and you got kicked out? I hope none of you had ever been accused of murder, and I pray you'll never be, because it's as if an invisible Cain's mark were placed on your forehead. One great man once said: "Everybody lies." Well, this man," Lyonel pointed at Microsoft, "doesn't. He doesn't because he learned the hard way what a monstrosity lie can be, because he's been lied to more than once by the same person, Mr. Celestro Ford. Five years ago Mr. Celestro Ford lied to my client that Mr. Evos Ford was my client's father. Documents were provided as proof, which, by the way, were a lie too. Mr. Celestro Ford told my client he was his best friend, a lie. He had a relationship with Mr. Stevenson's partner one night, did he own up to it? No, he lied again."
"Objection. Mr. Rawotzki never saw Mr. Stevenson after the night in question, until five years later. He couldn't have lied since they didn't even talk." Sir Payne fitted the whole sentence in one long dismissive sigh.
"Sustained," said the Judge with the same bored sigh. "Mr. Geragos, don't invent details as you go."
Lyonel went on as if no one had spoken.
"Five years later Mr. Celestro's sister, Miss Takano, helps my client recover his memories, she doesn't tell him who she is. It may not be a lie, but it's prevarication of sorts, don't you agree? Driven by many lies, my client comes to Mr. Celestro Ford to ask for his assistance in exposing certain breeches of law in the company of his presumed father, an honorable and purely legal intention, to which Mr. Celestro Ford agrees and is ready to equip my client accordingly. Gives him a memory blocker saying it's a jammer and again he lies."
Lyonel made a pause waiting for an objection, nothing followed, so he went on.
"Mr. Stevenson spends the night before the crime in Mr. Celestro Ford's house. He goes to the Doodads shop, because he is told so by Mr. Celestro Ford, to get his SC fitted with an information transmitter, which is in fact, as the witnesses confirmed, a self-destructive program installed to change the algorithm. Lied to again. These changes in the algorithm ultimately led  to the death of Diod Medina. I'd say more, these lies led to the death of Diod Medina. Because my client comes to work in the morning and learns that he's been lied to again - the operation won't be faultless, someone has to die in the process. My client decides that this someone has to be him. He writes a death note to the man he believes to be his father, a note to Rafael Mozes van Rijn asking him to pass a message to stop the plan in action. The plan he discussed with Mr. Celestro Ford the night before.
"My client was ready to die and his actions proved it, the witnesses proved it, the facts proved it. He didn't know what would happen, he didn't know he was being used as a weapon. As Mr. Celestro Ford once said himself, we don't blame a knife used for murder, do we? We blame the person holding that knife. Mr. Stevenson was a knife, ignorant of what was being done behind his back. He sacrificed himself to save a human life and now he's here accused of taking one. Is this what justice should be like? You may say he was the one to come to Mr. Celestro Ford for help. Well, yes, he trusted the brilliant mind of his so-called friend who had tricked him, betrayed him, but was the only person Mr. Stevenson could possibly turn to. You may agree with the prosecutor and condemn both, it's easy, no effort at all, but the truth always comes out the hard way. 
"You read the letter to Mr. Evos Ford written by my client. He believed he was Mr. Ford's son, he was ready to die instead of a boy he hardly knew and someone wants to convince me he would kill a person to take revenge on his own father? I am sorry, but I am not convinced. I'm appealing now to all of you on behalf of the innocent man. Be the wise king, look at the actions, look at the reaction, remember who wanted the boy to live and himself to die in his stead. Don't let yourselves be lied to. All you need is reasonable doubt, you know that, because Mr. Stevenson is presumed innocent by the law. Confirm this presumption, let him walk out of here without the Cain's mark, because this mark isn't for him to wear, it's for the murderer who used him and is trying to make Mr. Stevenson, an innocent man, be unjustly punished. But while you acquit the innocent, don't let the guilty get away with what has been done. 
"You know what this tattoo says that Mr. Celestro Ford is so proudly flaunting to us today? It's an ancient saying in Sanskrit which reads 'The natural course of thing to happen cannot be altered', am I right, Mr. Ford?" Lyonel turned to Celestro who only moved his eyebrows.
"It is a good saying." Lyonel face the judges again. "More than that, I'm sure it will be proved today. But let me give you another piece of Sanskrit wisdom. 'Just as a few drops of water falling on a red hot iron ball disappear in a matter of seconds, so also a few good qualities entering the heart of a villain.' I'm not a prosecutor, and I believe my client is telling the truth, and if you believe him too then you have a closer look at Mr. Celestro Ford, however many good things Mr. Sir Payne has to say about him. Let the innocent go and don't let the guilty escape, because that's what justice is supposed to do, and today you are the justice, and I trust your judgement."
Lyonel sat down, and Microsoft heard him let out a nervous breath bit by bit as if he'd been holding it all that time. The lawyer looked at his client with a twitching smile and mouthed something encouraging.
Judge Ketch leaned back and propped his cheek with his right hand looking expectantly at Sir Payne, who traced his thin thread of a beard with his index finger before starting to speak.
"Your Honors and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Justice," he said, standing up. "I'm a humble lawyer with no right to thrust upon you my beliefs, principles or convictions of any kind. Justice roots in facts, doesn't it?"
Payne looked like an artist in the middle of creating a masterpiece. He accompanied his every argument with wide, open gestures of his hands, drawing frames and circles in the air. He walked across the courtroom without being annoying, he managed to catch the eyes of every single judge at the exact moment of making an important point. He stepped and turned with the grace of a panther, his claws retracted but still palpable in his every word.
"While Mr. Geragos may believe whomever he wants to believe, you don't have to believe anything. Like I don't believe anything. I don't have to believe Mr. Rawotzki's innocent, I know it for a fact, and that's a defendant's job to point out facts. Mr. Geragos said he believed Mr. Stevenson's story, a story he's just so eloquently told you. Well, I don't think it's bedtime already, though I did feel sleepy a couple of times during this melancholic saga of self-sacrifice. Let me pep you up a little with bare truth and obvious facts that leave no doubt that Mr. Rawotzki had nothing to do with the death of Diod Medina, or rather let me remind you of them."