Fybertech: The De Novo Project, Part 4
Friday, January 27th, 2006
"And you're sure it couldn't have been accidental?" asked a muffled voice from underneath the truck, the hulk of which sat covered in a slowly thickening layer of snow as more flakes powdered down from above.
Fyber stood leaned against the side of the wreck while Boris inspected underneath. "You tell me." he countered.
Boris scooted out from under the truck a few moments later and stared up at Fyber, his breath forming small white clouds of steam. "You ought to call the cops, you know." he suggested.
Fyber just shook his head, as Boris had expected him to do anyway, but thought he might as well suggest the logical course of action first.
"So then now what?" Boris continued, crawling up off the snow-laden ground.
Fyber stared out into the wintery woods, pondering the question himself for a moment. He finally just shrugged and started back towards the knoll. "It was fine before the scrap yard, so I'm left to assume it happened there." He tried to paste his fuzzy memories back together of that day a week earlier, but it felt like things were still missing. His memory didn't seem to work very well most of the time anyway, but he found it very frustrating to know that pieces were floating in there somewhere, yet with no idea how to get at them.
Though just as Boris had caught up alongside him, Fyber had stopped again, having caught a glimpse of a large, black, yellow-eyed crow perched menacingly on a drooping tree limb ahead.
"The suits." Fyber said suddenly, as a piece of memory came back to him, spinning around on his heel to face Boris. "There were these shady guys there, in fancy black suits. You don't see such a thing around these parts very often, and certainly not in a place like that. Too dirty for'em."
The crow squawked and lazily flew away when Boris started walking again, who seemed less than enthused. "Coulda just been the owners." he confuted.
Fyber achingly jogged a few steps to catch back up and shook his head. "Naw, these guys really looked shady, one of'em in particular." Fyber remembered the one man's piercing stare plainly now, figuring if anyone was likely to cut a person's brake line, it was him.
Boris shrugged, lifting his arms out widely to his sides before dropping them again with a sigh. "Well, what do you plan on doing about it if you're not willing to get the cops involved?"
Fyber delayed for a moment, then picked up his pace. "Time to see what that lab of mine can do, I guess!"
- - -
It didn't take long before the pair had filled all the auxiliary displays with financial statements and property records about the scrap yard, which seemed to be their only lead at the moment.
Boris had called in sick to the college and asked to have a student look over one of his experiments in the school's biology lab at the end of the day for him; a perk of being a grad student, he had said. Fyber wouldn't know, since the most experience he ever had with college was from watching stuff like "Saved By the Bell: The College Years", and he figured he'd dislike real college about as much as he'd disliked that show.
"Russel Davis." Boris mumbled, pouring over bewildering tax records on the screen in front of him. "I don't know what half of this stuff means, but I know that his name is on all of it."
Fyber propped his chin in the base of his hand and thought about the name, thinking that must be the old man who ran the place. But then he shook his head, following along his own screen with his index finger. "Up until a week ago, that is." He tapped some buttons on the keypad beside him, copying the data on his own screen to Boris'.
Boris read over the new document, which seemed fairly similar to the ones he looked at earlier, except for a name. "Arvis Risk?" he asked, pausing for a moment to skim over the rest of it. "I've heard that name before." he added, and strained his brain a bit for the answer.
"So have I." Fyber acknowledged, and transferred another screen of data to Boris. This one had a photograph, seeming to be more of a news story than more boring financial records.
"Seems your typical entrepreneur type," Fyber informed, "thrust into the business life by a well-to-do family, and doing fairly well for himself from the sound of it. Took over a number of smaller technology companies over the years, cramming them all under the wing of his own company, Arvix Industries."
Boris glanced over the rest of the news article, then back up at the photograph. "Charming fellow." he said sarcastically, noticing the man's smug grin and perfectly groomed appearance. "Was he one of the suits?"
Fyber too was staring at the photo, trying to place him as one of the men at the scrap yard, but couldn't, and shrugged. "I don't think so. But the question is, what the heck does a guy with these credentials need with a place like that?"
Now it was Boris' turn to shrug. "Maybe he has a lot of junk?"
The two of them sat there for a moment silently pondering the situation, until Fyber tapped his console, killing all the screens around them. "Let's go on a field trip."
- - -
They arrived at the yard around twenty minutes later, pulling in behind what appeared to be a small parade of bread trucks, which one might think were delivering packages if not for the fact that they all wore a shiny coat of black, with Arvix Industries logos painted on the side. Fyber and Boris exchanged curious expressions as they watched what must have been eight of them pull onto the dirt path leading from the road to the gate, stirring up a thick cloud of dust behind them as they plowed inwards. But possibly even stranger, Fyber noticed, was that after the trucks had cleared the gate, it slid back into place, blocking anyone else from freely entering.
"That's funny." he commented aloud, getting a curious stare out of Boris. "The gate," he pointed, "it's never closed."
They both watched the trucks disappear onto one of the side paths inside, which divided the large piles of scrap metal, leaving only a dust trail to prove that they had ever been there.
A moment later Boris put the car back into drive. "Let's do it."
He turned off the road and slowly pulled his white SUV along the uneven path, still smothered in dust. Boris had never been here before, noticing the large mountains of metal stacked all around, including on either side of them, though there was a tall barbed fence on either side of the entrance road they drove along as well, preventing one from getting inside except for the gate up ahead. This was normal, Fyber explained, except for the aforementioned gate being closed, as well as the workmen that they spotted, who were installing long, green, plastic slats, sliding them diagonally through the sections of chainlink fence, which would eventually prevent anyone from seeing inside.
Soon they rolled up to the booth, and again, Fyber noticed something wrong, but didn't get a chance to say anything to Boris. The man inside, whom Fyber had never seen before, promptly stepped up to the vehicle. He propped his hands on his belt, which they noticed wasn't just holding up his brown security guard pants, but a holstered gun as well.
"This is private property. State your business." he said, rather rude and abruptly, eyeing around inside their vehicle before giving them a chance to respond.
Boris turned to Fyber, who leaned closer to the driver's side window from his seat, faking somewhat of a grin to the guard. "We have an appointment with Russel Davis." he lied, hoping that really was the old man's name that they had pulled from property records.
The man from the booth shook his head. "Not anymore you don't, this property is under new ownership. I'll have to ask you to leave." And with that, he turned around, walking briskly back to his booth.
"So much for asking where to find him." Fyber mumbled under his breath, which Boris acknowledged with a "hmmph."
They both sat there for a moment, watching the man immediately pick up the phone when he got back inside old wooden shack, which Fyber noticed held none of the old man's belongings anymore, such as the battered cassette player Fyber had repaired numerous times. The man eyed them both as he started talking into the receiver, which put the same thought into both their minds.
"Let's get out of here." Boris warned softly, knocking the gear shift into reverse and backing back out along the dirt path. No sooner than they'd reached the main road, another black bread truck came swinging in, just missing them. It kicked up another dust cloud in its wake as it bullied on towards the gate.
"Well, that was.. interesting." Boris said finally, breaking the silence of the ride as they cruised back down the familiar country road towards the lab. They were both obviously confused by the circumstances, but neither of them seemed to know exactly what the next course of action should be.
Fyber simply nodded. "I don't guess I need to say it now, but I've never seen that guy before."
Boris chuckled. "Yeah, he sorta gave off that impression."
A few glances in his rear-view mirror, however, removed that grin from his face.
"I think we've got company." he warned.
Fyber twisted around in the seat, a bit too quickly however, as the soreness in his side and neck complained, but he caught glimse of a familar black bread truck coming up behind them. He swiveled back around and adjusted the side mirror instead to get a better look.
"You think they're onto us?" Boris asked, an edge of tension in his voice. He kept a watchful glance in the rearview mirror as they bounced down the unkempt road.
"Don't speed up, see what his intentions are." Fyber suggested, as the truck got closer and closer.
Tension built to palpable levels as it approached. Boris kept glancing back and forth, poised to put his foot down if necessary. But then, suddenly, the truck turned on its signal light, and slowed as it got too close. Fyber let out a light chuckle of relief, followed by Boris.
"He's just passing." Fyber said.
They slowed a bit, pulling over as much as they could as they sped along the narrow road, while the truck picked up speed and swung up around them. Boris still eyed it cautiously, but it glided on past as expected, then gradually moved back towards the right lane in front of them, and turned off its blinker.
"Say.." Fyber started, looking around for something to write with, "Let's get its plate number." Boris raised a brow at the suggestion, and reached over to pop open the glove compartment, fishing around inside, half-watching the road.
But at the same time, the sectioned door of the bread truck in front of them slid upwards, revealing a man dressed in black military-esque garb pointing an automatic weapon down at them. Straps connected to his belt kept him planted in position near the edge of the opening.
"What the fuc-" Fyber exclaimed, just as a barrage of projectiles sprayed the windshield, chewing away at it hungrily, leaving small white holes with spiderwebbed cracks crawling outwards.
Their arms flew up to protect their faces, and Boris slammed on the brakes, spinning the wheel hard to the left, sending the SUV into a sharp squealing skid. Bullets rattled the side and rear of the vehicle as it came to somewhat of a stop, before Boris stomped the accelerator again, throwing them back in their seats as it rocketed in the other direction.
Boris finished Fyber's original swear when they saw yet another black truck speeding towards them from the direction they attempted to flee in.
"GO" Fyber ordered, pointing off the road, but Boris didn't need instructions, as he spun the wheels of the SUV and jolted off the main road with a firm bounce.
"You know where this goes?" Boris asked, his eyes wide, not taking them off the path in front of them as it jolted them from side to side.
Fyber shook his head just as they slammed down hard over another bump. "We don't own any of this." he replied, not recognizing the area as any of his family's property.
It was a grassy field with a few scattered trees, mostly level but with the occasional rise, and apparently filled with rocks and dips. The grass, however, was covered in a familiar layer of sparkling white snow, making them slide around a bit with each adjustment of the wheel. Boris reached down to shift into four-wheel drive, which he realized probably wasn't a good idea to do while they were moving, but they had better things to worry about at the moment than following instructions manuals. The other two wheels suddenly gripped the slippery earth beneath them, helping to steady their course, to which Boris applied more gas.
Fyber swiveled his head to look back, the pain in his neck now less of a bother, and to his dismay, he saw one of the trucks following them. "Sunnuvabitch" he swore, his voice unsteady as the vehicle rumbled beneath them. The SUV was probably better equipped for the terrain, as evidenced by the truck behind them having a harder time gripping the frosty grass, but Fyber didn't want to take any chances of them getting into firing range again. He turned back, looked ahead through the tattered windshield, and finally noticed a string of woods in the distance, pointing Boris in the right direction. "I guess we're about a mile out." Fyber reported.
Boris put his foot down, sending the vehicle into a frenzy of shaking.
In what seemed to take forever, they crossed the open distance, with the pursuing truck somehow getting ever closer behind them. They thought they could hear bullets spraying overhead, but couldn't be sure from the roar of the engine and the chattering from the frame of the car, which despite being a sport utility vehicle, didn't feel very sporty at the moment.
The trees suddenly raced towards them as they approached the forest boundary. "Ohhhhhh shit." moaned Boris, as he slowed a bit, manuevering between two of the hulking wood obstacles as they sped into a thin section of woods.
All Fyber could do was watch as Boris jerked the steering wheel left to right, swaying and bobbing his head to see through the ruined windshield, narrowly missing the precariously placed trees in their way. The snow on the ground didn't help, as Boris soon found out the hard way, with the rear end of the SUV sliding a bit wider than he hoped, smashing into one of the trees, which deflected it a bit too far in the other direction, whacking that side into a tree as well. The violent impacts jostled them in their seats, which normally would have sent Fyber into a series of groans, but adrenaline had made his body forget of its previous injuries.
Soon they cleared this section of trees, and Boris pressed his foot down again, speeding along the growing hillside, which Fyber began to recognize. He looked back off into the forest to their right, noticing one of the trucks stopped at its opposite edge, with two individuals standing outside of it, watching them speed away.
The two of them were silent for the next few minutes as they approached a more familiar piece of scenery, seeing the gap in the woods to the right which they normally entered through from the road at the other side, and the truck which still sat wrapped into the tree about mid-way. Boris slowed down, heading straight on towards the somewhat snowcapped knoll, and up its somewhat slippery driveway. He veered into the cave entrance in its side, braking hard enough to throw them both forwards from their seats momentarily, and turned off the car.
They both sat there, breathing heavily, hearts pounding in their chests. Finally, Fyber broke the silence as a thought washed through his mind, pulling open his door and hopping out. "Come on, help me with this." he insisted.
He ran over to the door of his lab, pushing in the unlock code impatiently, and squeezed past the metal obstruction as soon as it would open. He was already inside before the lights even had a chance to activate fully. By the time Boris reached the circular room, Fyber had disappeared.
"Where'd you g-" he started to yell, just as Fyber started running back out of the supply room hallway, carrying some manner of device in his arms.
He passed it off to Boris, and started back towards the hallway again before turning to give instructions. "Take it out." he said shortly, flinging his arm back towards the exit, and ran back down the hall.
Boris didn't ask questions and did as he was told, carrying the unknown device outside and laying it down on the cave floor next to his battered SUV. He started back inside, seeing Fyber already on his hands and knees underneath the circular table, plugging a thick cable into what appeared to be a junction box of some kind. He then picked up the other unattached end and dashed back towards the cave entrance, letting the unwieldly cable unwind behind him. Boris moved aside, grabbing it as Fyber swept past, undoing any kinks he may have missed as he followed.
When Fyber reached the device Boris had already delivered, he rolled it over on its side, finding the matching socket on its underbelly, and plugged the cable into it until it clicked into place. The cable itself suddenly lit up a bright green, and the device came to life, spitting out a series of intense light bursts. Fyber rolled it onto its other side and began adjusting a myriad of controls, which somewhat steadied the bursts into a more consistant spray of light, and leaned it back down on its base, then carefully pointed it towards the cave entrance.
Boris suddenly realized Fyber's plan.
At the edge of the cave entrance now stood a flickering image of rock, mostly transparent. He also noticed that it looked inside-out from where he stood, as if he could touch the insides of the rocks that poked outwards. And he did, in fact, walk over to try, watching the wall of light ripple faintly from his touch, unable however to actually feel anything there.
Fyber dropped back onto his haunches, trying to catch his breath a bit. "Hologram" he stated, confirming Boris' suspicion. "Just a soft-light one, though." he added, and laid back on the cold, stone floor. "But from the other side, it should look like solid stone. Unless those goons come lurking around up here, they shouldn't find us."
Boris had heard Fyber talk of holograms before, and knew enough to know that soft-light meant it was just an image, where as hard-light meant it had physical properties similar to that of a real object. He also knew that neither were possible with modern Earth technology.
Boris stopped running his fingers through the fake rock, despite how mesmerizing it was, and knelt down beside the device creating it. It appeared to be a hybrid of components seemingly not originally intended to go together. One of which, he noticed, was engraved with the letters "H.E.A.T." Boris rememembered that as one of Fyber's trinkets from Zentax: Holographic Energy Appropriation Tool.
"Aren't you supposed to wear this around your arm?" he asked, nodding towards the alien device inside.
Fyber chuckled. "You are when it's not broken. When it is, you stick a bunch of other shit on it, making it four times larger to do a lesser job, and pray it works."
Boris dropped down onto his rump and leaned back against the wheel of his SUV, across from Fyber, still eyeing what he considered a technological marvel despite Fyber's cynicism. "So why didn't you install this little pearl sooner?" he asked, finally taking the chance to catch his own breath as he sunk into a more comfortable position.
"Because if you knew how seldom I've ever gotten it to work this well, you might be a little less impressed by it." chuckled Fyber.
Boris shifted his attention to the power cable attached to it, which pulsed the same color green as the generator inside. He realized this device must be capable of directly using whatever form of energy it provides. Probably a plasma. It all fascinated him, despite what they had just been through.
Fyber eventually sat up again somewhat, scooting back to rest against the cave wall, and glanced outside to look for any followers before looking back over at Boris. But he blinked a few times, something catching his eye which he didn't expect. He lifted his arm, pointing lazily towards Boris.
"I think you mighta caught something in the arm there, buddy." he said, not trying to sound too alarming.
He was pointing to the dark maroon blotch that covered the upper arm of Boris' jacket. Boris looked down at it, a bit dismayed, and pulled his jacket off of his arm carefully. A bullet had grazed his flesh, leaving a nasty gash across the side of his bicep, which freely bled downwards along his arm now.
Boris grimaced, then looked at Fyber with somewhat of a forced grin. "Wonder what Jenny will think this of this?"