Well, there’s another 3555 words added to this. I’m totaling up to 6634 as of now. I need to write another 3030 words though, so I can get a total of 6585 words today. Why? Well, by now, if I want to have a 100000 words by November 25, I have to be at 16000 words. However, I’m not. XD I’m at 6634. I did some calculations though, and if I write a total of 6585 words a day for five days straight, I will be all caught up and can return to writing 4000 words a day. We’ll see though won’t we? We’ll see.
Anyway, about the story, since I’m sure that’s what you guys are here for, I’m going to use a different technique of hyperlinking. It does not allow for as much maneuverability, but it will save me a lot of trouble. Speaking of the actual story, however, since I apparently get sidetracked very easily, last chapter we got introduced to a number of key characters. This chapter, the plot thickens, as we learn more about Samuel’s apparitions and get a deeper view of his character. Enjoy. 🙂
Samuel tossed and turned in his bed. Memories of pain, sharp and red, bounced around in the back of his mind, an unremitting ambience. His lips moved, muttering soundless words. Faces flashed through his head too fast for him to recognize. He rolled onto his back. For a moment, his mind was quiet, then a visage, gaunt and lifeless flashed into his mind’s eye. Samuel sat up.
He glanced at his silver watch. The face, illuminated by a shaft of moonlight, showed two AM. He groaned and rubbed his eyes. When he opened them again, she was there, standing at the end of the bed, haggard, pale features facing him, expressionless eyes boring into his very soul. He gave an inarticulate exclamation and pushed himself back against the carefully engraved headboard.
“Get out!” he shouted vainly. “What are you doing here? Go!”
She cocked her head to one side and stared at him curiously, then she flickered and disappeared. Samuel wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. His chest heaved, each breath rasping in his throat.
Shuffling came from outside the door, and it swung open. There was a click, and the light came on, illuminating the room. Jessie stood in the doorway, concern etched in every wrinkle.
“Samuel! Are you okay?” he rasped, breathing heavily. A handgun dangled from a loose but experienced grip. Images streaked through his memory. A building burning to the ground, a screaming five year old child, bodies of loan sharks, it all jolted through him, each one feeling like the impact of a bullet. He had sworn never to let his young charge ever get hurt again, even if it meant his own death.
“Check the windows,” Samuel said shortly.
The servant obediently moved to the large oriel. He grabbed a handle and pushed strongly. It did not budge. He tried the other handle. It did not budge.
“The cupboard Jessie, the cupboard,” Samuel ordered, the excitement in his voice slowly dissipating.
The doors to the cupboard were swung wide. Inside it hung numerous suits. Jessie pushed them aside and searched the wardrobe thoroughly. There was nothing. Samuel sighed.
“Are you alright, sir?” the butler said, putting the formal title back into the question.
“I’m fine Jessie,” Samuel said, now in control of his faculties. “What we are up against cannot be battled with guns. Go to sleep, I doubt she will visit me again tonight, but tomorrow, tomorrow we bring the war to her side of the battlefield. Then we will see how she plays.”
The butler straightened as much as he could. This was the determination that had brought Samuel as far as he stood – or sat – now. Jessie recognized it, and he knew that it would involve great physical and mental effort. He nodded silently, then turned and hobbled back down the hallway, gun still hanging from wiry fingers, memories still haunting him.
Samuel tapped an even rhythm out on the desk. He had come to a bit of a deadlock in his research on Rose. The computer vouchsafed no more information no matter what he tried. It had revealed that there had been an unrecorded visit by Rose to a shrink, and that was the limit of it. The visit was not even stored on their system, which he had hacked into, unless Rose had used a false name, but she would have had to possess a complete false ID, and while, being the daughter of a CIA agent, that was possible, Samuel doubted it.
He reread the text conversation between Rose and her father again.
Rose, where are you? Your physical-ed trainer called in saying that you had asked for exemption from class today.
It’s nothing major Dad, I’ll be home soon.
Rose, I’m worried. You’ve been acting strangely.
Don’t be Dad. It’s all part of growing up right?
I guess. Where did you go though?
Just a visit to a shrink.
A shrink? What for?
Oh, I’ve just had dreams the past two nights. I wanted to get his opinion on them.
He says they’re just signs of an overworked mind.
The conversation continued, but Samuel was not interested in the rest. The shrink… He had done a probability search of possible shrinks in the immediate area, taking into account the traveling distance and time, true distance, and rating of the shrink. His search had really brought up only one office. All others were quacks or simply too far away for Rose to visit and return in a few minutes.
Samuel grunted with frustration and shoved himself away from the table. He had come so far. Such a simple thing as an appointment not recorded digitally would not stop him. With a vigorous push, he sent the wheelchair rolling to the door. Though his transport had a motor in it, on occasion Samuel felt like doing the work manually. This was one of those occasions.
The sliding doors slammed shut behind him, and as the recognition chip embedded in his foot moved away, they locked. He smiled to himself, thinking about all the science-fiction stories in which chips were embedded in the wrist. Impossible. There were too many tendons and muscles inside it that would be rubbing against the chip, causing constant pain, and wear and tear to the ligaments themselves.
The best place for a chip was in the foot. Few people, except perhaps rock climbers, had need to bend their toes, him especially. After all, he did not walk on his feet. That was left to people who weren’t hamstrung. He pushed the thought aside and patted his pocket to make sure the specially designed key was still in it.
His car required not only the chip embedded in his foot to start, but it was connected to a large encryption database which created a new encryption everyday. The only thing that was updated with that encryption was the key in his pocket, though key was perhaps a misnomer. It was shaped more like a small oval with a small protrusion at the end.
The headlights on Samuel’s car flashed as he approached, and the door to the driver’s seat swung open. Only, there was no seat behind the door. Samuel pushed his wheelchair up the ramp which had extended from the car, turned to face the windshield, and pushed his wheelchair back. Clamps behind him locked the chair into place, and the door swung shut of its own accord.
Samuel buckled his seatbelt as the gentle humming of the car retracting its ramp halted, leaving an expectant silence hanging in the air. The driver dug his key out from its pocket and inserted its protrusion into a small hole beside the gearshift. The oval part of it glowed as the encryption was downloaded from the database and the car read it, accessing the database itself to check the code was correct.
In a second, the engine turned over and the elaborately designed displays lit up, glowing with blue light. Samuel removed his key, returned it to his pocket, shifted into drive, and pushed the throttle, his substitute for actual pedals, forward. The car eased out of its parking lot and Samuel spun the wheel, sending it up a ramp and out of the carpark.
He checked his watch as the shrink’s office appeared on the horizon. His computer’s estimation had been correct. The drive had taken no longer than a few minutes. Of course, it was calculating from the Fox property when it estimated how long the drive would take, but Dalus Corp. was not much farther from the office than Rose’s home.
Samuel turned in behind the office and lined his car up with a lot in between two other cars. He tapped a touchscreen, waking it up, then indicated the location of the slot he intended the car to park in. It beeped, asking for confirmation. Upon his validation of the command, the ramp extended, the clamps on his wheelchair unlocked, the door swung open, and he rolled out of the car.
He did not look back as the door closed behind him and the car drove straight into the parking lot before shutting down and locking itself. The billionaire rolled silently past the disabled parking lots. He found them demeaning, a testament to his supposed helplessness. Well, he had proved the world wrong time and again, and wasn’t going to start giving in over parking lots.
The bell to the shrink’s office tinkled as Samuel pushed open the door and entered. A friendly receptionist looked up from some papers and smiled at him. He returned her genial smile, then declared his business.
“I would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Granger.”
“Yes sir, right away. May I have your name please?”
Samuel pushed his glasses up his nose. “Samuel Dalus.”
“Ah, yes, Mr. Dalus,” the nurse muttered to herself, then she did a double-take. “Mr. Dalus? The founder of Dalus Corp.?”
Samuel allowed himself a complacent smile. “Yes.”
“Oh my! Would you mind giving me a form of ID, a driver’s license perhaps? Just formality you know, nothing more. Thank you ever so much. There, now I will just enter this in here, edit this, and there we go.”
She handed her customer back his card. “One last question Mr. Dalus. What is the cause of your appointment? Dr. Granger always likes to have a general idea of why patients are visiting him before accepting the session and giving a diagnosis.”
“Visions,” Samuel said shortly, watching closely for a reaction. Some small corner of him held hope… He didn’t need to. She fell for it instantly.
“Well, what do you know? Just a week ago or so we had a patient visit here with visions. A young girl she was, not much younger than you. Rose, I think she mentioned her name was. Funny thing though, she asked that there be no record kept of her visit. I consulted with the doctor, and he said it was alright, so not one blessed thing went on the database. Could you believe that?”
Samuel was elated with his luck. He pressed another question, “Did she mention what, exactly, she was seeing?”
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you that sir. You know, as psychiatrists, all our patient’s information is confidential. Oh my, my, me and my big mouth, always getting me into trouble it is, sir. I am so sorry, but I cannot tell you any more. I’ve already said too much.” She sighed. “I’m never going to complete my internship at this rate.”
Samuel eyed her for a moment. She noticed his gaze and shifted uncomfortably. Aquiline features etched in marble hidden behind a pair of tinted glasses did that to people.
“What if,” he said slowly, thumbing around inside his wallet. “I offered you a thousand dollars?” He put ten hundred dollar notes on the counter.
His unwilling informant bit her lip, then swept the money into her palm and stuffed it into a pocket.
“Alright, but don’t tell the doctor I said a word. He’d have me out of here in a split second.”
Samuel nodded his understanding.
“She said she was seeing people. Odd it was, ‘cause we’ve had people complaining of seeing people, but she described it differently from the rest. In particular, she mentioned that most often of all, she would see a girl who almost looked dead.”
Samuel mentally patted himself on the back, then turned abruptly and made for the door.
“Sir!” the nurse called after him. “You have not set a time for your appointment!”
“Cancel it,” the ecstatic man called over his shoulder. “I won’t be needing an appointment anymore.”
Samuel rolled into the carpark. His car, upon detecting his approach, backed out of the parking lot, executed its opening sequence, then promptly shut off. He zoomed into the car, plugged his key in, and drove out of the carpark, buckling his seatbelt as he did so.
He tapped the touchscreen, swiped over to contacts, and gave Jessie a call.
“The operation is a go,” he said clearly. “I have a lead, and am moving in on Rose’s university now. I need you to get me an exemption pass to take Rose out of her classes for the day. The battlecry is on a different side now.”
Jessie was unable to truly appreciate Samuel’s metaphors, but he grunted in acknowledgement anyway, then hung up and left to do his master’s bidding.
As his expensive vehicle burned the miles to Rose’s university, Samuel brooded over what he had learnt. Rose had visions, just like him, but she saw more than one person. She just might be the key that he needed to chase his haunting apparitions away for good.
His hands closed on the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. Ahead of him, a traffic light turned red, and with an exclamation of disgust, he pushed the throttle back to zero. The car, detecting that there was an intersection up ahead, rolled itself to a stop. Samuel tapped the dashboard impatiently as he waited for the light to change. On a whim, he reached forward and turned the radio on. Dimitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 filled the soundproofed car. He smiled. Perfect.
The light turned green, and he pushed the throttle forward until it locked. His car accelerated forward till it was at the speed indicated by the signs along the road. The power of modern technology. He said to himself. He was in a good mood. Soon the apparitions would be all gone. He would have chased them away, and maybe, just maybe, he would harness them into something useful.
Rose sat in her chair, chin in her hand, staring vacantly out the window at the wispy clouds. Wispy, and almost transparent, like the people she had started seeing. It all began after that power surge at her house. Suddenly she had become aware of people, invisible to others, but all too clear to her eyes.
The doctor had been puzzled. He could not work out how she could see them so vividly and yet have no incongruities in her statements. With cases of her kind, it was usually the imagination of a stressed and fretting mind, yet she was always lucid. Then, of course, after her visit, they had started talking to her.
Not the ghost-like people of course, but actual, physical people, who claimed to be similar to the ones she saw. They explained everything to her, and Rose had been gratified to learn that her hypothesis that the situation involved an alternate dimension was not far off from the mark. They had told her she was special, and that they had had their eye on her for a while now.
A guardian had been assigned to Rose, Jessica. Ethena was Jessica’s real name, but Rose preferred Jessica. She knew all too well what Ethena was derived from, and to the young woman, Jessica seemed less like a goddess of warfare and more like a compassionate female figure she could look up to, one who had been lacking for eleven years.
“Miss Fox,” her professor said. “Could you kindly demonstrate how to take the derivative of this?”
Rose obligingly stood up and walked to the blackboard. She would be dropping the class since she no longer needed to figure out what in the world was going on with her life; one more problem couldn’t hurt. A few minutes later, she had the detailed answer written boldly on the blackboard. The teacher beamed at her as she returned to her seat.
Someone knocked on the door. All heads in the class turned as the professor permitted admittance of their guests. Rose looked on with idle curiosity as the door swung open and an old man hobbled in, his wheelchair-ridden counterpart, as young as he was old, following.
“What do you want, sir?” the professor asked in a polite, measured voice.
Samuel gave a cursory nod at Rose.
“And on what authority do you take her from her class?”
Samuel motioned with his hand, and Jessie stepped forward, handing his carefully obtained pass to the teacher. He eyed it, nodded, wet his lips, then turned to the class.
“Very well then, Rose, you may go with these gentlemen. The rest of you start working on problem forty-two from your textbooks.”
Rose gathered her books into her satchel and followed Samuel and Jessie as they exited the lecture hall. Jessie mutely extended a wrinkled hand to Rose. She debated for a moment, then doubtfully handed over her heavy bag. He shrugged it across his shoulders and continued walking obediently behind Samuel.
The trio moved in silence for a minute. Rose, now studying the two with more than idle curiosity, was burning up with multiple questions, but she wished to see if either of the two would speak first. They didn’t.
“Who are you two?”
Samuel stopped abruptly and turned around. Jessie, expecting this, sidestepped so that he was at his master’s right hand. Rose however, stumbled slightly as she halted her forward momentum. Samuel waited patiently for her to regain her balance, then he spoke.
“I am Samuel Dalus.”
Something about the way he said it, a certain pompousness, but with an underlying current of danger, etched the name into Rose’s mind. She knew instinctively that this was not someone she wished to cross.
Samuel kept his expressionless gaze for a moment, then he smiled. “This here is Jessie.”
The complacent man could see that Rose was thinking furiously, and he waited patiently for her to make the connection.
“You’re– you’re head of Dalus Corp. aren’t you?”
“Yes.” Samuel smiled. “Don’t worry, it usually takes a while for people to make the connection. I have a certain aversion to pictures.
“But, never mind that. You are probably wondering why I am here are you not?”
Rose nodded mutely.
“I am here because I wish to offer you a job.”
“A job?” Rose’s eyes widened.
“Yes, I want you to come and work at Dalus Corp. I looked into your background, you have a very good track record, and your grades are all excellent. I would like you to come and work with us at Dalus Corp.”
“Of course, you will have a salary. I mean,” Samuel chuckled. “You do need some recompense for me pulling you out of university.”
“But, why? What is it about me that makes you think I would do good at Dalus Corp.?”
Samuel’s face tightened. “Don’t doubt my judgement.” There was a pause, then he continued. “Of course, I don’t expect you to make this decision on the spot. Talk it over with Bradley, see what he thinks.”
Rose nodded and watched blankly as both Samuel and his butler rounded a corner.
Samuel was eating oatmeal. He hated the stuff, but according to research, the fibers in it had their benefits. His coffee; however, made up for the disgust he felt towards the oatmeal. He took a sip of it and eyed his watch idly. Bradley was late. He had expected the detective to arrive sooner. Then he heard furious tones intermingled with Jessie’s placating ones creep into the room. Speak of the devil, Samuel thought as he rolled out from the dining room.
Bradley stood, broad frame illuminated by the bright morning sunlight outside, gesturing apoplectically. He was so furious that he could say nothing, but stood there fuming, as Jessie explained soothingly that Samuel had been expecting him and would be right over.
“Could you please quiet your antics Mr. Fox?” Samuel said coldly. “My grandparents are still sleeping, and your throwing a tantrum like a five year old child does not help any.”
This got the agent, and he settled down somewhat. Still bristling with hostility, Bradley demanded to know what the job offer was about.
“It is just a job offer, no more, no less.”
“I don’t believe it,” Bradley said, veins still bulging in his forehead. “You want something with my daughter. Well let me tell you mister, that if you hurt a hair on Rose’s head, I will kill you myself.”
“Why do you think I am trying to hurt you daughter? Is it because you feel guilty of the CIA for suspecting me of illegal activities and think that I am trying to exact my revenge?”
“No!” Bradley said hastily. “Of course not. How could we suspect you? You are our number one supplier.”
“I doubt that,” Samuel said, a little testily. “You all just doubt that someone as young as me could gain such prominence.”
Bradley was quiet, then he said slowly, “Yes, we do have our suspicions.”
“Well, listen to me, Mr. Fox. Revenge is petty. I don’t do that kind of thing. Take this job as a sort of peace offering between us.”
Well, Mr. Dalus, Bradley thought smugly. Here is your first mistake in our game of chess. Rose is a sharp girl, letting someone from our side into your domain is not going to help you any.
“Alright,” Bradley said, rubbing his chin. He extended his hand. Samuel took the proffered hand and gave it a firm shake.
As the CIA operative turned and left, Samuel smiled. It was not a good smile to see.