Fybertech: The De Novo Project, Part 6|
Monday, January 30th, 2006
A week had passed since the call from Vito, who had surprisingly agreed to help after all, despite his attitude at their initial encounter, and said he would get back to them when he had some information to provide. While this was rather good news, it meant several excruciatingly boring days in the process.
Nothing in particular had happened around the lab since the day of the chase. Boris had even gone back to school on the second day, having realized it could take weeks before they found out anything, and he doubted his teachers were likely to buy his over-the-top version of the "a dog ate my homework" story.
Aside from taking advantage of this time to heal, Fyber mostly found himself doing trivial tasks, such as re-aligning the holo generator every few hours, since it had apparently decided to start projecting an image that more closely resembled rocky road ice cream rather than stone. While such a thing might be a funny sight any other time, it wouldn't be very favorable if more goons from Arvix Industries decided to come snooping around. They had, after all, sped into the area during the chase, and Fyber's truck still sat wrecked not far from the knoll, which were two rather suspicious evidences as to their location. So ice cream holograms were a no no.
The other unfortunate side-effect of using the reconditioned H.E.A.T was the increased drain on the Zentaxian power core, the device towering upright in the center of the table in the main room, the results of which had sent the fickle plasma conversion unit into a fit. It had been carefully tuned to convert the full output of the core into AC power, but now it was only getting about two thirds of that, leaving half the lab's systems running on battery power most of the day. Fyber had been left with turning the projection off after dark, just so that the batteries had time to recharge.
He had also been making a list of things he might wish to acquire for the lab now that he was a bit more security conscious. At the top of the list was an infrared security camera which he could embed in the initial garage area of the cave, in case someone did get smart enough to waltz through the hologram masking the entrance. But of course, the list got progressively more elaborate, such as the wireless motion-sensors he could bury along the winding path leading up the knoll, which were certainly out of his price range, and something he wasn't likely to be trading spare gas-powered generators for. But what good was making a shopping list if you can't add all those extra goodies, he convinced himself.
Boris had spent his days in lectures and science labs at the college, which under other circumstances might have been a boring routine, but he was relieved to be back into one again. One which didn't involve putting bulletholes in his car, to be precise. Or himself, for that matter. His arm seemed to be getting better on its own, despite Jenny's original assumption that it might need stitches. In fact, she had called him a few days after, asking him how it was. He had been a bit apprehensive that she might ask again how exactly it happened, but to his surprise, she was relatively to-the-point and civil, aside from some off remark about Fyber and himself being "typical males". Boris wouldn't necessarily call himself typical, but at least he couldn't argue with the latter aspect.
Finally, in the evening of the following Friday, Boris had gotten another call on his cell phone from Vito. Fyber and Boris had actually started to think that the guy might have met up with some of those black trucks himself, and not been quite as lucky as they had been, but apparently it just took some time to get any information in that sort of business. And information is what he had to offer, telling them to meet him at the Moondance bar again that evening, making sure to remind them that he didn't accept checks.
- - -
Vito pulled a series of black and white photos from a manilla envelope, arranging them across the table of the dimly-lit booth at Moondance, then crossed his arms in front of him and looked at Fyber and Boris, who both appeared rather interested in what he had provided. "I definately recognize this one." Fyber said fairly quickly, tapping his finger down on the photo of a man with squinty eyes, the same ones that had followed him around the scrap yard that day. "And this one was talking to the old man, er, Russel." he added, pointing to a huskier fellow a few photos over.
"Sever," said Vito, who then glanced at the second photo Fyber recognized, adding "and that one's called Bluster. And there is no irony surrounding those names." Vito slid the photo of Bluster a bit more towards them, better revealing his furrowed brow and pudgy nose, having been captured by Vito's telephoto lense in mid-conversation. "A top dog, pun intended, in the Arvix Industries thug squad. He usually does the bullying, being backed up by some amount of these other clowns. If you saw him, you can rest assured that whatever business deal he was overseeing was after the more legal means of accomplishing it had failed." He slid the larger man's photo back in line with the others, then slid the thinner, shorter man with the suspicious squinty eyes closer. "Going by the alias alone, Sever here sounds like the perfect candidate for your original incident. Suspected in numerous 'accidents', the deep pockets of Arvix Industries has apparently managed to pay off the right people to prevent any convictions."
Fyber eyed two others who looked faintly familiar, which Vito picked up on and tapped over on the one farthest to the left. "Scaffold." he described, as they looked at the tall wirey man in the photo. "They say there's nowhere he can't climb. And this one," he continued, pointing at the other photo Fyber had seemed interested in, of a scrawny rat-tailed fellow, "is Contact. He doesn't have many skills aside from the ability to mindlessly do what he's told, but he has connections with other organizations, making him somewhat valuable I guess."
"Don't you have any actual names for these guys?" Boris inquired, glancing over the array of shady characters in front of him.
Vito just shook his head. "You don't get real names of guys like these off the street."
Fyber didn't recognize any of the other photos, which he expressed by leaning back again in his seat. Boris, however, noticed one of a female, also dressed in classy apparel just as the men were, and somewhat attractive at that, with dark flowing hair accenting her prominent cheekbones. "Who's this one?" he asked curiously.
Vito chuckled, to Boris' surprise. "Spree is pretty on the outside, but probably wouldn't have a problem with breaking your neck for telling her so."
Boris raised a brow and sat up a bit more. "An interesting lot."
"The interesting thing," Vito began, his eyes watchfully peering around the bar, "is that these people all seemed to have been hand-picked and hired into the company over the last year. Their reputations precede them, but never as a group. So something's definately shaking at Arvix Industries."
"Did you find out anything on Russel Davis?" Fyber asked expectantly.
Vito just shook his head and started to scoop the photos back up in front of him. "It would seem that nobody wants you to know where to find him." he said, to Fyber's dismay, as he tapped the edge of the stack of photos against the table to straighten them, and slipped them back into the envelope, then passed it to Fyber. "But I'll keep looking."
Fyber nodded approvingly. "I think that old man is the key to finding out what's going on."
"But it can't happen for free" Vito prompted, a polite grin sweeping across his face.
Boris smirked and pulled out his wallet, paid Vito for his work so far, and the three of them proceeded to slide out of the booth. "I'll call you when I've got something." Vito said, and nodded to them both before heading for the bar. Boris slid his much emptier wallet back into his pocket, as Fyber gave Boris a casual pat on the back in thanks, and the two of them headed out, giving a wave to Morris as they walked by. He chuckled and waved back merrily, his hand filled with a twenty-dollar bills. Boris' bills, in fact, as they noticed Vito slipping away from the bar and exiting through the back, into to the alleyway. Morris was no doubt merry from Vito's tab being paid off, which he counted twice before stuffing into his vest pocket.
"More waiting" Boris grumbled, as they stepped out into the bitter night. But waiting seemed all they could do for now.
- - -
The next morning, Fyber woke up for the first time since the accident without feeling sore. The bruise across his chest and shoulder where the seat belt had caught him was now just a faint hue of purple, and all the tiny scratches he had acquired in various places from broken glass were fully healed. He still had a bump on his forehead, but he no longer wore the bandage, since the skin had mended at least. Feeling rather positive as a result of his improved condition, he got up early and proceeded with his usual routine, which began by fetching himself his morning cup of coffee, and then headed into the control room.
"Control room", in fact, was the new designation for the main room of his lab, which up to this point, he had simply called "the main room". He had decided the different areas needed more proper names in the event he needed to quicky identify one to Boris. The initial open cavern area where they parked, now hidden by the stone hologram, was still "the garage", and the winding path up the knoll "the driveway". The narrow cavern path leading from the garage into the control room was dubbed the "entrance hall". The bedroom area was still pretty much called "the bedroom", since he thought "quarters" or "cabin" sounded too much like a ship. And Fyber was tired of ships. Lastly, the cavernous storage area was now designated "the workshop", since despite its current state, it would eventually be as its name intended.
It was the workshop that came to Fyber's mind as he sat at the round center table, now referred to as the "conference table". In light of recent events, he had tucked away all the loose objects strewn across it, so that it could actually be fully used as intended. As he stared at the narrow pulsating power core which stood upright through the center of the table, he recalled what he had meant to do before all of this had ever started, which had simply been to buy some decent lights for the workshop. They were still laying in that assemblage of metal once known as his truck, since Fyber had yet to ever unload them, due to the walking distance between the truck and the lab. But since he was feeling better, today seemed like as good a day as any, considering he probably wouldn't be hearing from Vito for another week. He finished his coffee while listening to the world news, then put on his coat and trekked outside.
A thick snow still sat clinging to the frigid earth, glistening wetly under the morning sun. This remained somewhat of a concern, since not only were there probably still tire tracks from Boris' SUV, but now footprints as well. All he could hope for was a mild day in the near future, or even more snow for that matter to cover them back up.
Fyber carried the lights by hand, two boxes at a time, since rolling the hand truck through the thick snow would have proven difficult. Loose shards of glass from the broken bulbs scratched around noisily inside their damp cardboard containers as he lugged them under his arms, reminding him of the sound that the bullets had made against the windshield of Boris' car on that eventful afternoon, which despite being several days behind them, still sat vividly in his mind. Despite his many adventures in the past, he had never been shot at before. By laser-based weaponry, perhaps, but never bullets. There was a large distinction between the two in his mind, and bullets had a much scarier inclination towards death than any laser beam had ever given him. He didn't like that feeling very much.
But on his third and final trip, the thoughts of that last day at the scrap yard preceding the initial incident with his own truck churned through his mind. In particular, he kept remembering the balding man with whom he had traded the gas-powered generator to for the fluorescent light fixtures he was now unloading. As he slid the last two boxes from the bed of the truck, brushing a layer of thin white frost away, one more piece of memory strayed back into grasp. The man had given him his business card before he left, in case he needed more of the lights. He recalled the logo again from the side of the man's pickup, remembering it was a construction company, with the same logo etched into the card, which he had only briefly glanced over at the time.
Fyber left the remaining boxes on the tailgate and quickly walked up along the passenger side of the wrecked Chevy, pulling open the rusty door and climbing inside, his eyes searching around the glass and pine needles strewn about its interior. There was even a small pile of snow sitting on the dash now since the last time he had been here. But there, in the floor, laid the man's bright white card. Fyber carefully slid it out from under a piece of broken windshield and brushed it off. "Wayne's Construction" it read, as Fyber remembered the vivid blue W painted on the door of the man's pickup, which stood in front of an outline of a construction site. On down the card it had the man's name, Wayne Anderson, along with his work and home telephone numbers. This guy was there that day, and he surely knew the elusive old man that once owned the scrap yard, who had set up the deal between them in the first place, so perhaps he had some idea where he was at now.
Fyber stomped back through the thick snow in a rush towards the knoll, leaving the door sitting open and the last two boxes on the tailgate, focused solely on the clue in his hand.
- - -
After a bit of reminding, Wayne Anderson greeted Fyber enthusiastically across the noisy telephone line, with what must have been the sound of construction taking place in the background. Fyber was somewhat relieved to hear his voice, fearing he may have met a similar fate after he left that day. As such, he chose not to mention what had happened to himself, in case such a thing would spook Wayne out of talking to him. But he did mention the change of ownership of the scrap yard, and how he seemed to have misplaced the old man's home phone number. Fyber could detect a touch of disappointment in Wayne's voice when he realized Fyber wasn't calling him to do business, but he was still happy to be of help.
"Yeah, he didn't seem too happy about losing the place," said Wayne, "but business is business I suppose."
"Business?" Fyber inquired, curiously.
"Bank foreclosed on 'im." Wayne replied disappointingly. "Weren't the first time he ever got behind, but they didn't seem to be willing to work with him this time 'round. Some new place bought it out faster'n he could spit. Seems they been watching it for a little while. Just seems strange that he didn't try to contest the buy-out, though."
Fyber soaked in this new information enthusiastically. He knew why Russel hadn't contested it, based on the number of hoodlums that had paid him a visit. Part of him was also relieved that the old man was apparently okay from what he gleaned from the conversation, since for all Fyber knew, he could have been face-down in a river by now based on what he had seen and heard of these new guys so far. "So how would I get ahold of him now?" he asked casually.
Wayne went quiet for a few moments, while Fyber listened to the rumble of what sounded like a cement truck spinning its drum, and men barking out instructions loudly over all the racket. Despite the technology Fyber had spent so much of his life working on, he still enjoyed watching construction take place. He couldn't exactly see it in this particular instance, but he could visualize what was going on based on the conversations. Even though it took quite a bit of work for one person, he had enjoyed constructing the physical aspects of his lab just as much as the technological aspects, from turning a dark, damp cavern, into a warm, brightly-lit home. His dad, too, had worked much of his life in manual labor, so Fyber had become accustomed to such things, as well as making do with what he had, which was of particular use over the last year.
"Alright, I've got the number right here. Sorry 'bout that." returned Wayne, interrupting Fyber's stroll down memory lane. He started reading off a number, as well as an address, which Fyber cumbersomely scribbled down in his notepad while trying to balance the phone on his shoulder.
"Got it." he said, grabbing the phone just before he managed to dump it backwards off his shoulder. "I sure do appreciate it." he thanked.
Wayne started to reply, but Fyber interrupted. "Oh, and some of those bulbs got a bit beat up on the way back. Not sure of the condition of the fixtures yet. I might be interested in extras sometime if you've got any to spare."
Wayne chuckled, noticably more pleased now that some business was involved, which had been Fyber's intention. "Ohhh, I'm sure we could arrange something. Gimme a call when you know what you need."
They both said their farewells and hung up, leaving Fyber with less questions, but still questions nonetheless. Why had Arvix Industries' thugs seemed to have focused solely on him, despite others like Wayne Anderson having been there the same day? Why exactly had they employed such a gang of ruffians in the first place? What's in the scrap yard that's so important to them? It seemed that if Vito didn't find some answers soon, he might have to take another field trip to the scrap yard himself.