Walter sat at his desk and looked over at the phone as it started to ring, he heard Paige answer it and listened carefully as she started to clearly not understand what the person on the other line was saying but was still trying to remain professional and polite as she put them on hold.
“Walter?” Paige called out as she ascended the stairs.
“Should I take the call on line 1?” Walter guessed.
“Yes, I can't even figure out what they are talking about, something about transferring energy.” Paige replied as she tried to best explain what she heard.
Walter frowned in slight confusion before he picked up the phone. “Hi, this is Walter O'Brien, how can I help you?”
“Yes, is this the founder of Scorpion? Based in California?” He heard a middle aged woman ask, her Arabic accent putting a flourish to her words.
“Yes,” Walter answered hesitantly.
“Excellent. My name is Almira Hassan, CEO of Twilla Incorporated and we are having difficulties with some equipment transferring Farads into Watts.”
Walter sat up straighter as his frown got deeper, there was no way he was hearing that right.
“What applications are you trying to use the conversion for?” Walter asked.
“Diffracting light, but anything more than that I can not discuss with you until you sign a confidentiality agreement. But we've already hired a dozen different corporations for help but none of them can handle the situation properly.” Mrs. Hassan explained.
“Where are you located?”
“Between Montreal and Quebec Canada.” Ms. Hassan answered vaguely. “I would send our private jet for you and whoever else you need at your earliest convenience, we have housing on premises and all your food and any other expenses will be covered and included, however this will take at least a few days.” Mrs. Hassan noted.
“Let me discuss it with my team, what is a number I can reach you at?” Walter asked as he pulled out a notepad and took down the details as well as other specifics and waited only a few moments before a formal email popped up in his inbox.
“Group meeting!” Walter called out as he took his note downstairs as the team assembled. “We have a job offer, but it involves us being out of the country for a few days.” Walter began when everyone was assembled as he sat down at the computer and pulled up everything he could on Twilla Inc.
“Twilla Inc? I've never heard of them.” Happy remarked skeptically.
“It's a glorified dance company,” Walter answered.
“Why would a dance company want anything to do with us?” Toby asked.
“I just talked with their CEO and apparently they are having difficulty with their equipment converting and transferring energy, turning Ferads into Watts.” Walter remarked as he watched Happy and Sylvester take a second to process what he said.
“That doesn't make much sense,” Sylvester pointed out.
“It sounds like plugging in an American appliance into a European outlet kind of thing?” Paige offered, trying to be helpful. The team looked at her in confusion but didn't say anything.
“Actually I think you might be on to something.” Walter commended before the rest of the team snapped their attention back to him in surprise with a little disbelief. “Thoughts?” Walter offered to the group.
“I'll call Drew, he can watch Ralph,” Paige pipped up first.
“So is this a road trip or are we flying?” Toby asked.
“Flying,” Walter answered.
“I don't like to fly,” Sylvester grumbled.
“They would be sending their own private jet.” Walter replied.
“It sounds like they are making a mountain over a mole hill, it shouldn't be that complicated and it shouldn't take days, a few hours at the most,” Happy noted. “It's probably a problem with hardware.”
“I would love to ride in a private jet,” Toby murmured.
“So are we going to do this?” Walter posed to the team who looked at each other.
“How much are they willing to pay us?” Toby questioned.
“A hundred thousand dollars.” Walter replied which got the whole team to widen their eyes in surprise and Toby jumping up to get his stuff together.
“How soon can the jet get here?” Toby asked as he paused before Cabe came into the shop.
“Got a job?” Cabe asked as he eyed Toby curiously.
“Yeah, we have a trouble shooting gig in Canada,” Toby explained.
“With who?” Cabe questioned Walter.
“Twilla Inc.” Walter answered.
“I've never heard of them.” Cabe said.
“It's a dance company,” Walter repeated.
“That's unusual, I trust you've looked into them,” Cabe remarked casually while he walked over to where Walter had all the information up.
Cabe stood still as his eyes trained on one of the pictures. “Hold on, I recognize her,” Cabe admitted as he pointed to the picture of the CEO.
“That's Almira Hassan,” Walter supplied.
“Give me a moment.” Cabe requested quietly before he excused himself to the roof to make a few phone calls.
“So now what?” Happy asked as everyone seemed to hesitate.
“Let's wait a moment guys,” Walter responded as he walked toward the stairwell to join Cabe on the roof.
Once on the roof, Walter came across Cabe who was talking very quietly and very seriously into his phone. Walter waited patiently for Cabe to get off the phone before asking him what was going on.
“Walter, I just got off the phone with General Rivers, he informed me that Twilla Incorporated has been a suspicion of being a shell corporation for something much more serious.” Cabe leveled.
“How much more serious?” Walter inquired.
“Because of government policies we can't investigate or know for sure, however it would mean a lot of you paid attention to everything while you're there and reported back if you see anything suspicious.” Cabe ventured.
Walter simply nodded as he went back downstairs and called Twilla Inc back to let them know that they accepted the job.
The next day, they arrive at the airport to see two women standing with a sign that says 'Scorpion' along with a shuttle
“Hello,” Walter greets as he stands in front of them.
“Mr. O'Brien?” The younger of the two inquires.
“Yes,” Walter confirms.
“A pleasure to meet you, I'm Tezbeh Hassan and this is my associate Ms. Patel. Is this your crew?” She inquired and smiled kindly when Walter nodded.
“Excellent, if you will join us,” Ms. Patel gestured as she put the sign away and got on the shuttle, the rest of the team following suit and began driving toward the private plane section of the airport.
“This is nice,” Toby murmured as he rode next to Happy who just rolled her eyes at him.
When they were driven up to the largest private jet they had ever seen, it was hard for them not to drop their jaws.
“This is very nice,” Toby repeated as he stepped into the jet and saw everything dripping with luxury.
“What does Twilla Inc do exactly?” Happy questioned.
“We are a multi national entertainment company. We usually perform for royalty or the super rich.” Tezbeh answered as she motioned for the stewardess. “I will need all of you to sign these confidentiality forms before we land. Because of the clandestine nature of our company, we ask that you not discuss anything you will see with any member of any entertainment industry employee or associate. There are reasons, which you will see first hand, why we charge millions of dollars and that information needs to be kept confidential.” Tezbeh explained as the the stewardess handed each member a legal folder then pulled out her notary stamp.
Walter and the team considered the paperwork in front of them carefully. Paige was the first to sign and get her paperwork notarized before she was offered something to drink and a platter of delicate and artfully prepared hors d'oeuvre was set in front of her and when each team member finished the process was repeated.
Once they landed everyone took a moment to fully take in the large complex that lay before them. It seemed like a mini city in the middle of nowhere. Paige noticed an orchard and vineyard towards the back of the property and what looked like a large garden and greenhouse. She began to realize this place must be largely self sufficient.
Walter noticed every roof had advanced solar panels, he noticed large satellite dishes on most of the roofs. He noticed cameras just about everywhere and that of the people walking outside, only 10 percent were male.
“Anyone else noticing this?” Walter murmured to his team. Toby nodded subtly as they followed Tezbeh and Ms. Patel into the main building where an assistant was waiting with electronic notepads.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Rachel, she'll be our main liaison.” Tezbeh introduced as she helped her pass out the notepads.
“Nice to meet all of you, first if you will use the said notepads to take a 'selfie' and then put your hand on the surface so it can scan your hand print, this way, the buildings and grounds, with just your hand print can be accessed and acquire anything you want or need, the devices will help you communicate with each other as well as anyone else here including myself, Ms. Hassan or Ms. Patel.” Rachel explained as she watched them all do as she instructed.
Walter watched out of the corner of his eye as someone came up to Ms. Patel and Ms. Hassan and took them away.
“Let me show you to your rooms,” Rachel offered as she gestured for them to follow her in the opposite direction.
“You will be staying in the Lake Side suites, they have some of the better views,” Rachel explained as they entered an elevator. “Also there are maps on your tablets as well as a 'you are here' feature so you don't get lost.” Rachel added as she showed Paige and the others how to navigate the different features.
“I trust the ride over was pleasant?” Rachel inquired curiously since no one was really saying anything.
“Nervous?” Toby countered. “You seem tense.”
“Actually yes, ever since the break down, all of us have been out of sorts.” Rachel answered. “But that's why you're here so we shouldn't worry anymore right?” Rachel tried to reassure herself more than them.
“What broke down?” Walter asked.
“The Machine,” Rachel said reverently. “However we have narrowed down the problem to a single component so your task shouldn't be too complicated.”
Walter and the team gave her curious looks in return.
“You'll see for yourself soon enough,” Rachel replied with a twinkle in her eye as the elevator took them to their floor.
“These rooms also have a shared balcony and roof top garden access and enough wifi to choke a whale,” Rachel went on as she walked down a curving hallway with purpose, checking her tablet every few moments as if waiting for something before she came to the first room. “Ah, here we are, Mr. Sylvester Dodd, you have the first room,” Rachel addressed as she gestured for the door.
“Then I believe the second is for Ms. Dineen,” Rachel continued as she walked a few more steps and gestured to the second. “And then Mr. O'Brien we have you in the middle of the group. Then I believe it is Ms. Quinn and then Dr. Curtis on the end.” Rachel listed off as she double checked her tablet. “Yes,” Rachel confirmed before she watched them go into their perspective rooms.
“I'm living the dream.” Toby murmured to himself as he took in the room, better than any luxury hotel suite he had ever seen.
“Again, each room connects via the shared balcony which has a stairwell to the roof on both Mr. Dodd's end as well as Dr. Curtis'.” Rachel explained as she stood in the hallway where the team regrouped.
“Now, if you don't like anything about the rooms please let either myself or any member of housekeeping know, leave a note or inquiry either in the room or on the pads, also if you look under housekeeping's icon and enter in your room number you can select the color and type of bedding you would prefer as well as little things such as personal care items and air freshening scents. All of us at Twilla Inc want everyone's stay to be as perfect as possible.” Rachel explained with practiced ease and poise. “Also since you are going to be with us for a couple of days I highly suggest you take advantage of our spa, our health and fitness center which includes several swimming pools, hot tubs, saunas, that kind of thing, we have a few restaurants on campus as well as an amazing cafeteria that is open 24/7 that caters to most diets, both health and religious, we also have a medical center so if you feel like getting free blood work ups, MRI's, cat-scans, cancer screenings, etc, you're more than welcome, we abide by HIPPA and will only share any and all results with whomever you wish.” Rachel divulged. “Now if you'll follow me, Twilla awaits.”
They walked back down to the elevator and took it down into the basement then down a well lit if not ominous hallway down to a set of doors where Rachel scanned her hand and eye before the doors opened to reveal a security room where they were all X-rayed and their equipment inspected, after that they were led into a scrub room, where everyone put on special scrubs and shoe covers before going into an air cleansing chamber before entering another room. A chair with a headset much like 'Cerebro' from X-men with a technician standing next to it. The walls, ceiling and floor were opaque white but with billions of tiny holes if you looked closely enough.
“Is that Twilla?” Walter inquired.
“Yes,” Rachel answered.
“So far, all of our diagnostics have come back as connecting issues, which is would be at the base where the helmet's feed connects to Twilla.” The technician answered, her name tag reading 'Yesi'.
“How long have you experienced difficulties?” Walter continued.
“A month,” Rachel answered, looking at Yesi for confirmation.
“Well, thirty four days, fourteen hours and forty seven minutes.” Yesi admitted. “It was being used when it broke down, it gave the subject a brain contusion and they are still in a coma.” Yesi continued.
Everyone's eyes widened a bit as they looked at each other in trepidation.
“Had there been any hiccups or any warning signs before the incident?” Happy inquired as she knelt down to get a closer look at where the cables connected to the floor as well as the floor itself.
“None, we run diagnostics before and after every use as well as record each and every session.” Yesi answered as she knelt down next to her and shinned her flashlight on what she suspected was the problem. “So far everything has come back to this being the problem,” Yesi said as she pointed to the component.
“What is it?”
“It's basically a transducer, it was built to take the ferrads and other signals taken from the helmet and translate them into a signal that Twilla can read and therefore turn into readable data for just about any computer.”
“So it's a mind reading device?” Toby inquired.
“More or less,” Yesi answered.
“Who built Twilla?” Walter asked. Rachel and Yesi shared a meaningful look and took a deep breath.
“Twilla Hassan, she's the one in a coma, that's why we're scrambling and bringing people in to try to fix this because we still have deadlines to meet and projects with serious objectives. We are pulling at straws at this point.” Yesi answered.
“And we only came across you because we saw you in the news.” Rachel added.
“So let's get to work.” Walter ordered as his team huddled around the opening as Yesi lifted the heavy cover and were able to plug directly into Twilla that was housed underneath the floor once they were given a series of passwords to pass the impenetrable firewalls.
“If the inventor ever wakes up, I would like to shake her hand.” Happy praised as she looked at Twilla's masterfully put together inner network frame.
“Yes!” Happy exclaimed after a few hours of silence, the only sounds were fingers tapping on keys and the occasional huff. “I got it, the main transducer has several inner rings that the electronic signal goes through like a siv, two of the seven layers are cracked, causing the signal to not come through evenly, like a thread going through a spindle on a loom before it gets woven into fabric.” Happy explained.
“Great, how do we fix that?” Toby inquired.
“We have to take it apart and try to fix it.” Walter answered as he looked more closely at the connection, trying to mentally figure out how it was going to come apart and be put back together again.
“That's going to be a problem, it's more or less a solid piece.” Yesi replied.
“How was it made in the first place?” Sylvester asked.
“I have no idea, this machine was here long before I was, the Twilla has never told anyone how she built it or with what. From what I can see and what the diagnostics have said, it's probably made out of silicate.” Yesi speculated.
“Lets find out.” Walter said as he began to unlink everything, Yesi assisted him and with great difficulty they were able to get it out. It was a perfect cylinder of silicate, they couldn't even find any seams. They were completely stumped as to how it was made in the first place.
“I suggest we get an MRI of it.” Yesi concluded after she looked at it. Rachel nodded and tapped on her tablet before two personnel in scrubs with a special carrier came and took it away.
“Would you like to oversee the MRI or would you like to get something to eat and wait for the results?” Rachel inquired.
“Food,” Toby groaned, feeling his stomach already trying to eat itself as he gave Walter a pleading look.
Walter huffed a little and nodded in agreement.
“Excellent, the MRI should only take half an hour to an hour at the most, plenty of time for you to get something to eat.” Rachel replied happily as she led the way back through the checkpoints to the elevators before leading them to the cafeteria that had a buffet style food options that would put any Vegas or Cruise ship buffet to shame.
“Please, help yourselves and sit wherever you like, we do have private booths on the left side for those that like their privacy or feel free to sit at any of the long tables to mingle with everyone else. If you need me I will only be a tap away.” Rachel said as she dismissed herself to attend to her other duties.
After feasting themselves they reclined in their booth. Happy and Walter going over the schematics and information they gathered while Paige, Toby and Sylvester people watched.
“Anyone else noticed this is nearly the opposite of a sausage fest?” Toby murmured, just loud enough only their group could hear.
“Anyone else notice that it looks like a united nations meeting? I've seen more ethnic representation than....” Paige trailed off, finding it difficult to articulate her thoughts.
“And everyone is getting along peacefully, it's nice.” Sylvester added. “I have yet to see a bare wall either, there is art everywhere,”
“It's too good to be true, this must be an evil organization with an agenda for world domination.” Toby conspired sarcastically, Walter sparing him a glance as he looked up from the screen of his laptop but didn't say anything.
Paige frowned and cast a disbelieving glance over at Toby.
“A company this big with this many resources shouldn't need us though.” Walter muttered which surprised everyone.
“Well if they are as desperate as they say they are, it's understandable. Didn't they say they had already tried dozens of other companies that couldn't figure it out?” Paige pointed out.
Walter was about to reply before all of their tablets buzzed with an update. The whole team looked at their tablets as the MRI scans were uploaded.
“This...shouldn't be possible.” Walter murmured.
“Not good,” Happy muttered.
“This is screwing with my head,” Toby admitted as he looked at the scans, overwhelmed.
“I don't even know what I'm looking at.” Paige admitted.
Sylvester frowned as he looked at it, his brain running as many algorithms as it could while trying to come up with a solution but he was stumped. “How...?” Sylvester muttered, going through the scans over and over, getting more confused as he went before he opened up several tabs on his web browser doing a quick search.
Walter looked up and considered Sylvester, it wasn't often when he was stumped but he looked determined.
“Come on guys, we need to figure this out, we have a combined IQ of over 800, we can do this,” Paige encouraged.
“It looks like it's a carving within a carving within a carving but it's impossible because you can't really carve silicate crystal, can you?” Toby speculated.
“I'm sure it's possible,” Walter grumbled.
“Silicate crystal?” Paige inquired.
“Yeah, it's how computer chips and stuff gets made, you take silicon ore, you put it into a very expensive machine and you can grow a silicon crystal out of it. Then you slice that baby up like a log of bologna and process it. They have companies that grow it in the US, China and South West Asia.” Toby explained with gestures because he knew that if Sylvester tried to explain it, he would get tongue tied and Walter would either not use enough layman's terms or too many and Paige would either be lost or confused.
“Silicon ore?” Paige inquired, not familiar with that term.
“You know how when you're on a beach and you notice some grains of sand sparkle and some don't? The ones that sparkle are silicon,” Happy explained patiently. “Just like there are gold and mineral deposits, there are silicon deposits too.”
“Oh, cool, you learn something everyday.” Paige noted. “So what do we do? Get a chunk of crystal and try to carve it or what?”
“No,” Walter answered.
“So lets just say this is possible, to get a crystal, which that alone is worth a fortune, the skill it would take to carve or let alone have anything this intricate would take weeks, months even and that's after you're skilled enough to handle it or have a machine capable of such a task.” Happy speculated.
Walter stayed quiet as he slipped into his zone, looking for a stroke of brilliance but he was having great difficulty.
Rachel came and took them to their research department where they had what looked like stark tech on almost all the surfaces. Tezbeh and Almira Hassan, two of Twilla's daughters as well as her son, Jahan waiting for them.
“I would like to introduce you to our research division, Dr. McKinnly and Dr. Gutther,” Rachel introduced before she reintroduced Twilla's adult children.
“So I take it you have looked at the scans?” Dr. McKinnly inquired.
“We have,” Walter confirmed.
“And what do you think?” Dr. McKinnly furthered.
“It's clear from scans it's made from silicon crystal. Because of the nature of the casing and the intricate carving of the components within, we aren't sure how it was made.” Walter admitted.
Dr. Gutther and Dr. McKinnly exchanged a glance before Dr. Gutther stepped forward and enlarged the image before doing an 'exploded' view of it.
“From what we can tell it should be made out of four separate pieces of silicate, the inner sections is made in one of two ways, carved or 3D printed, except you can't use silicate in this form in a 3D printer.” Dr. Gutther expressed as she enlarged the inner portion even more.
“And it's older than 3D printing technology.” Jahan pointed out.
“So did Twilla Hassan carve this?” Walter asked as he looked over the design then over to her children for either a denial or confirmation.
“We are assuming so, we have asked her oldest friends and even we as her children remember she always had this piece, before she even built The Machine, she had always referred to this as the heart.” Almira answered.
“However our mother was a world traveler before settling here, mostly in Indonesia, India, the Middle East, Northern Africa and the Mediterranean, and this design is....” Tezbeh trailed off as she looked for the words.
“It looks like it belongs in an Islamic Masque.” Paige noted.
“It does, but even if we search every Masque in those regions, finding anyone capable of doing what we need is...” Almira countered.
“One in 2.849 million,” Sylvester's supplied. “The pattern seems to be somewhat unique to the Middle East, perhaps Iran, which narrows it down to the major masques, unless the design itself came from a minor one,”
“You need to look through your mothers things and see if she spent much time in the Middle East, if there was Masque she always visited or something,” Walter asserted.
Twilla's children gave him a disgruntled look that boarded on being offended.
Paige walked forward and got between Walter and Twilla's children, “I know this must be a difficult time for you, and I know you want your mother to wake up more than you want a machine to be fixed however there are thousands of people depending on you and us to get the machine up and running again, wouldn't your mother be proud to wake up and find that we all worked together on this? And that whatever happened to your mother while she was using the machine, we need to make sure that never happens again, to anyone else's mother especially.” Paige offered sincerely.
Twilla's children and the doctors looked at each other before turning back to the team.
“We already have looked through her things, we were able to find a few old photographs and some older prayer rugs. But it's not much to go on, we've already sent investigators and photographers to where the pictures were taken but they haven't sent back much,” Almira spoke, breaking the momentary silence.
“I suggest we break for the day, the Nartaki will be putting on a show tonight since we are hosting some dignitaries and entertainment tycoons. You are more than welcome to attend.” Tezbeh announced, looking to her brother who nodded in agreement.
“Let's meet back here in the morning, 9 am to see what else we can do,” Dr. McKinnly suggested. “Everyone should relax and get a good night's rest.” Dr. Gutther added, dismissing everyone, Twilla's children led the way while Walter and the rest of the team followed.
“Anyone up for a spa treatment or two?” Tezbeh inquired as the group walked down the hall.
“Sure,” Paige volunteered.
“Anyone else? It's all on the house so you can get whatever you want.” Almira offered.
“I'm game,” Toby chirped.
“I don't like to be touched.” Happy muttered.
“I think I'll spend the afternoon with the machine, see if I missed anything in the diagnostics,” Walter added.
“Well our research division could use a hand if you wanted to help out,” Jahan invited looking at Sylvester and Happy from over his shoulder.
“Sounds good to me,” Happy replied with a small, agreeable grin.
“Perfect, the show will be in a few hours, a reminder will sound on your tablets,” Almira concluded as she and Tezbeh escorted Paige and Toby toward the spa and Jahan took Happy and Sylvester over to the research division before taking Walter back to The Machine.
“So how big is Scorpion?” Jahan inquired as the two of them navigated the halls.
“It's the team that's here, that's it.”
“So five individuals?” Jahan asked, surprised.
“Yes, but each of them have extraordinary gifts and talents.” Walter answered with pride.
“You seem more than a company, more like a band of friends than business partners.” Jahan noted.
“That's because we are, we are all geniuses, well, except for Paige, she's normal, she works as a translator of sorts but the rest of us are and we've all been outcasts at one point or another until we banded together,” Walter admitted.
“Understandable, that's why my mother created Twilla Inc, we welcome those who are 'different' we build families where there are none.” Jahan explained.
“I've been meaning to ask someone this, why are most of the people here female?” Walter posed.
“Because Twilla is also a rescue organization of sorts, we do aid work all over the world and whenever there are abandoned children we do all we can to take them in, because of most patriarchal societies, it's often the girls who get left behind, forgotten and abused. Almost every grown woman here has children, either she bore them or she adopted them because she wanted to. We do have a small male population here, you won't see them out and about because they are being used as good father figures, caretakers and teachers. If you were to stay out in the hall for another ten minutes, the schools will let out and the halls will be flooded with children. Here at Twilla Inc we are all about the next generation.” Jahan boasted. “That and because The Machine interfaces with females a lot better than it does males. Allah only knows why, and if it wasn't for the bloody thing, the rest of this wouldn't be possible, the millions we make when we sell these 'ideas' to movie and music video producers and directors, goes to help thousands more.” Jahan added once they came to the elevator that would take Walter down to The Machine.
“I see, well thank you for the opportunity to work with you.” Walter stated, knowing Paige would be pleased to hear him say something like that as the elevator doors opened. Walter and Jahan shook hands before Walter stepped off the elevator and went down to see how the Machine was and see if there was anything they overlooked.
“Yesi,” Walter greeted once he came back into the room.
“Yes Mr. O'Brien?” Yesi answered.
“Every time there's a recording, does your server assign a sequence code?” Walter inquired.
“Of course, each member has their own range of codes actually.” Yesi answered as she took him back out into the security checkpoint and through a different door where dozens of screens and stations were where she sat down at the main desk with several screens and two key boards, one in English, the other in Arabic and pulled up the data base. “Well except for Twilla Hassan, her sequencing codes don't seem to make much sense, they are sporadic at best.” Yesi said as she pulled up all of Twilla's recordings.
“Can I see the recordings?” Walter asked, his curiosity piqued.
“No, there is very strict protocol we have to follow and allowing anyone other than those who are specified in the subject's paperwork is allowed to see them.”
“Even if in the last recording there could be something that could help us?” Walter questioned.
“It has already been reviewed by her children. However, Jahan and Almira are her Power of Attorneys. If they will sign off on it I will show them to you.” Yesi compromised.
Back in the spa Paige and Toby sat in a private sauna after their treatments.
“No peeking,” Paige warned as she got up to put another scoop of water on the heater, keeping her towel secured around her.
“I wouldn't,” Toby assured her as he laid his head and back against the wood walls as he stretched out. “I would have to say that was the best massage and facial I have ever gotten, my pores have never been clearer and my muscles have never been more relaxed,” Toby praised, keeping his eyes serenely closed.
“Same, I've never had anything like that before, I even got a mani pedi, I wonder if Ralph will be disappointed they took off the nail polish he put on.” Paige noted, looking at her nails again.
“Doubt it, he's not that sentimental.” Toby assured her.
“I noticed you were talking with your masseuse for a while in the hall way.” Paige pointed out.
“Yeah, I wanted to know how she got my sole plexus to not spasm.” Toby answered.
“Hmm,” Paige hummed, a sneaky grin growing on her face since she overheard Toby's earlier conversation and knew it involved a whole lot more than a sole plexus.
“So what's this 'show' we're supposed to be seeing tonight?” Paige wondered aloud.
“I don't know but I'm willing to bet it'll be some kind of performance, I'm sure it'll be awesome, everything here is awesome, that steak I had for lunch was Wagu, the shrimp tasted like they were caught maybe hours before I ate them, this place doesn't mess around, everything is the highest quality or pretty close to it, I mean look at the wood here in the sauna, this is premium white cedar, even the towels are super luxurious.”
“They are really soft,” Paige admitted. “I guess I just never thought a place like this would exist.”
“Well usually you have to be born into royalty or a crap load of money to experience this kind of luxury so I'm all about taking advantage of it while I can.” Toby muttered with a wistful sigh.
“So how are things with you and Happy?” Paige casually asked.
Toby lifted his head and considered her for a moment.
“Good. How are things with you and Drew? Or better yet how are things with you and Walter?” Toby returned.
“Drew is trying to be a better father and things between me and him are fine.” Paige answered.
“And you and Walter?” Toby inquired.
“How about you really answer how you and Happy are? I noticed you were the first to greet her dad when he came for Christmas dinner.” Paige maintained.
“Happy likes to keep things private and I will respect her wishes.” Toby contested.
“Right, of course, so if Happy had told me anything about you guys I should keep it to myself then,” Paige asserted.
“Well that depends, whatever she told you, did she tell you in confidence?” Toby inquired skeptically.
“Well if by confidence you mean a dressing room, sure,” Paige contended.
“Like shopping for what? Clothes or...”
“She was helping me shop for a proper leather jacket,” Paige clarified. “If she happened to get a few things herself from the shop next door, I guess that's her business right?” Paige baited.
“Oh it doesn't matter, we both went in and probably paid way too much for what we got.” Paige said dismissively.
“So did you get the blue, black or red?” Toby asked quickly.
“Red,” Paige answered before she realized what Toby had done.
Toby grinned victoriously. “So does that mean Happy got black?” Toby inquired cheekily.
“Kind of, I guess you'll just have to wait and see,” Paige teased. “At least act surprised, she would kill me if she knew I ruined the surprise.” Paige entreated.
“Ruined what surprise, I have no idea what you're talking about.” Toby emphasized with a wink.
“If you buy anything for Walter, he tends to go for cooler darker colors, although he would look good in a deep red.” Toby mused. “He wears a sixteen to sixteen and a half in mens dress shirts and a 30 waist with 30-32 inseam and he prefers boxers.” Toby confided.
“Good to know.” Paige replied with a bright smile before there was a knock at the door that indicated that their time was up. Paige and Toby stepped out only to be wrapped in warm robes so they could walk around and not worry about decency.
“I'll see you later, apparently we have to get a little dressed up for tonight and Tezbeh said I could borrow a dress of hers.” Paige said as they walked back to the dressing rooms.
“No one said anything to me,” Toby countered before Rachel came back for them.
“Dr. Curtis, I came to inform you that there will be a show tonight and it is suggested we wear formal attire, if you'll follow me there is a formal wear shop that should have a suit in your size.” Rachel said as she escorted him away before Tezbeh found Paige again.
“There you are, I hope you don't have anything else to do because we need to get dressed and you need to get your hair and makeup done.” Tezbeh said as she looped her arm in Paige's like they had been best friends forever and walked back to the dressing rooms to get changed before taking Paige to her quarters.
“Your leader, Walter, right?” Tezbeh asked as she went through her closet.
“Yeah?” Paige confirmed curiously.
“He likes you,” Tezbeh remarked with a grin.
“Um, I think so, he doesn't have much EQ which is,”
“I know what EQ is,” Tezbeh cut her off gently as she began to put some dresses she had chosen on the bed.
“So I don't know how much he likes me I guess?” Paige continued.
“Or how deeply?” Tezbeh hinted with a pained expression.
“Yeah, I mean he does things more than say things so,” Paige trailed off.
“So he hasn't made a move?”
“Kind of? I don't know,” Paige answered with a shrug.
“But you still like him a lot, would follow him anywhere?” Tezbeh guessed as she pulled two more dresses from deep within the back of her closet.
Paige shrugged but couldn't successfully hide her grin.
“Paige, I have dealt with thousands and thousands of people, I know an attraction when I see it and believe me when I say, Walter really really likes you, at the very least, the way he looks at you, like you hung the stars in the skies when you're not looking at him, it's clear.” Tezbeh assured her before turning to the dresses on the bed. “Now it looks like you and me are about the same size so which ones appeal to you the most?”
An hour later Paige gets a message on her tablet from Walter, asking why she wasn't back yet and that they needed to get going to be at the show in time. Paige messaged back to go without her and that she would meet them there.
“I'm almost done,” Tezbeh said as she tried a different lip stain with a soft gloss.
“How did you know all of that? About the way he looks at me, you weren't even there” Paige asked suddenly.
“Because we record everything that happens on the premises, there are cameras everywhere, that's why it was so surprising when it malfunctioned on my mom,” Tezbeh explained.
“I really am sorry about your mom, I hope she wakes up soon.” Paige said softly. Tezbeh smiled and nodded in thanks.
“Me too. Now let's get you downstairs, I hope your associate Happy liked the dresses we sent to her room.” Tezbeh muttered.
“Yeah Happy isn't the dress type,” Paige revealed.
“Oh, you didn't see what Almira took to her, because there is something going on between her an Dr. Curtis right?”
“Happy might deny it but yeah,” Paige admitted.
Tezbeh smiled mischievously. “Well how does that song go, 'girls go crazy for a sharp dressed man',”
“They do,” Paige agreed with a grin of her own and a giggle.
In the elevator Paige began to feel nervous, like she had when they had gone to Labeaux's art gala. This dress was different though, it was flowy and flitted as she walked, The design was a little different, showed more cleavage than the last gown she wore, it was strapless with a sweetheart neckline, Tezbeh had loaned her some jewelry and Paige felt like a she should be walking down a red carpet.
The elevators opened to the foyer and Walter, Toby and Sylvester were in a group in the middle of the space, looking dapper and handsome as ever. Walter looked up and locked gazes with her as if she was the only other person on earth and she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Paige felt like she glided over to him, walking on clouds perhaps. But when she looked past Walter she saw Happy coming from the other set of elevators at the other end, her eyes went to Toby who now had his back to her to fully face Happy. She looked gorgeous. She was wearing a seemingly simple black gown to the untrained eye, but Toby could tell she was still wearing her combat boots underneath the mermaid skirt but it fit her like a glove, a sexy, black satin glove.
“Well put me in a wig and call me Daisy.” Toby muttered to himself when he saw Happy, the air leaving his lungs in a rush, his eyes taking in the gorgeous site that was Happy in all her glory.
“Wow Happy, you look amazing!” Paige gushed.
“Thanks,” Happy replied, feeling a little self conscious. “You look great too Paige,” Happy offered.
“Thank you.” Paige replied with a bright smile before they turned their attention to the boys.
“And don't you guys look handsome.” Paige cooed as she took a look at them closer, fixing Walter's tie a little before taking his arm as the group walked from the foyer to the auditorium that looked more like an opulent opera theater than anything else.
The auditorium was packed full and there was a buzz in the air that had them all feeling butterflies. Walter was trying to keep an eye on everything and everyone since he still wasn't completely comfortable being here. He had wanted to be there with Paige in the spa earlier but he wasn't comfortable with people touching him and that just seemed like more of an awkward situation than completely necessary.
They were seated and the lights went down, five lengths of blood red silk unfurled from the ceiling, the excess coiling in a heap on the stage, spot lights directed at them, showing off their silky shimmering texture.
Then Tezbeh came out on stage which caused the crowd to erupt in applause.
“Good evening everyone and thank you for coming. Tonight's performance is titled Fire Diamond, and as always, please no pictures or videos of the performance are to be taken, however you are more than welcome to buy the DVD since tonight's performance will be filmed.” Tezbeh announced as some of the crowd began to chuckle before Paige and Walter looked around and found the large cameras that seemed to pop up out of nowhere.
“Now please, relax and enjoy the performance.” Tezbeh concluded before walking off stage and all of the lights going dark except for the spot lights on the lengths of fabric before music began to play and five acrobats came from behind the lengths of fabric then they began to climb their enormous heights, a rapid beat began and two more acrobats did somersaults across the stage, landing and leaving a shiny ball at the base of each length of fabric before landing on opposite sides of the stage and the balls detonated into a beautiful firework display, lighting the lengths of fabric while the others were still climbing up them in a synchronized fashion. But the flames were burning the fabric at a faster rate than the performers were climbing. Paige and Sylvester both held their breath as they watched to see what would happen next.
Then two women clad in tight black leather body suites and wielding whips began whipping at the fabric in at attempt to cut the fabric before the flames could engulf it any more and reach the performers, the cracks of the whips and their movements synchronized with the rapid beat, but the slashing the whips did would cut the fabric at a slant, leaving a corner still burning and climbing up the length. The music building and intensifying as the top curtain rose and revealed the performers as they reached the bar that was 100 feet from the floor where the fabric was tied off at.
The flames almost licking their feet as the got to the bar, stood on it and jumped off, diving toward the stage as the flames ignited another explosive firework charge that synchronized with others on the floor of the stage where they were diving to.
Everyone seemed to collectively gasp as the performers disappeared into holes in the floor as the smoke rose before reappearing on stage in another plume of red smoke and everyone taking a bow. The performance continued on for what felt like an hour but was actually three, there was an act with juggling very sharp swords, five more lengths of shimmering and sparkling silk were dropped from the ceiling, this time the acrobats were tied to cables and swung around the stage braiding the lengths of silk into an elaborate braid before again, setting it on fire, the little bits of fireworks sewn into the fabric making a beautiful display, all of it being choreographed to amazing music. All the acrobats were wearing monochromatic gymnastic suits that glittered in lights.
As the final act, the music died as a new performer took the stage, surrounded by five, very large, very muscular men. Huge stacks glittering disks rose from the floor and the men made encircled her, two stacks of discs at each of their sides and at the performer's nod, the music began again and one by one the men threw the discs at her. She leaped and kicked at them, each of them breaking and crumbling into plumes of glitter. But then the music sped up and the men began throwing the discs at her in a pattern, but instead of kicking them, she leaped and began climbing them like a spiral stair case, the force at which the men throwing the discs balancing out her weight while allowing her to rise a little higher right before the disc would break into a million pieces of glitter, until she was practically running in circles 15 feet in the air, suspended by nothing other than the force of her own foot steps against the discs being hurled at her in a very specialized and specific way, the music was building again and she was running faster as the men hurled the discs as fast and as hard as they could, Paige glanced down and noticed they were running out of discs, but at the base were two very large discs.
When the men reached these last two, much larger discs, the music climaxed and the men hurled them at the performer who instead of trying to walk on them, simply curled up in a ball as all ten dics encircled and encased her before exploding, the performer disappearing and instead a large crystal cut into a large diamond shape dropped from the plume of glittering smoke, it took all five men to run to the center and catch it before placing it into a base on the floor and disappearing into the floor as well as a very bright and specific beam of light hit the top of the stone and casting the most beautiful array of rainbows all over the room and everyone in it before the audience rose and erupted into applause.
“That was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.” Paige admitted to Walter as they clapped.
“It can all be explained with science and physics.” Walter replied.
“Oh hush, don't ruin this for me,” Paige pleaded.
Walter rolled his eyes but couldn't stop his grin. It had been an amazing performance and he had never seen anything like it himself but even after admitting to himself that this wasn't his 'thing', having Paige clutch his hand, even holding onto his arm or intertwining her fingers with his and squeezing his hand for reassurance when the performance had gotten intense was quite nice.
After a lovely evening speculating on how they accomplished the special effects, they called it a night and went to sleep, most of them trying not to think about the problem at hand.
At 3am, an alarm went off, they had barely gotten any sleep but when Rachel came to bang on all their doors, barely dressed and in a panic, they ran down to the machine.
“What's the problem?” Walter asked as they ran down the hallway before Rachel was banging on the elevator button.
“We have a problem, Twilla became sentient,” Rachel announced in a rush when the elevators finally opened.
“What?!” They all echoed.
“Yesi was replaying the last session that Twilla herself had before there was a...” Rachel tried to explain as she anxiously watched the elevator numbers show their decent.
“Before?” Toby asked, still groggy but feeling the anxiousness practically roll off of Rachel in cascading waves.
“Before The Machine seemed to push back, electrically, putting Twilla in the coma. When she ran the session again, it started a chain of events like dominoes within The Machine. Now it's making demands, it's aware that it's 'heart' is missing and that it was broken. It's giving us an ultimatum, either give it's heart back or it will self destruct and it's asking for a sequence code, we're guessing it's the self destruct code that only Twilla herself knew. We are at a standstill, only Twilla knew how to make the heart, but she's not just in a coma, she got put on life support. She's dying and we have every doctor that can be bought to be silenced and brought here. We....” Rachel started to stutter as she got more flustered.
“If the Machine knew it's 'heart' was broken and missing, wouldn't it know how to make it again? Hook it up to a silicon crystal growing machine, let it grow itself a new one.” Walter suggested.
Rachel was awestruck by the idea. “That might work, but those machines weigh tons, it would take...I don't know how we could get one here in time, and they are ridiculously expensive it's not like we can walk into these places that have them and just buy one, not only that but they would already be in process of making a crystal, it would take I don't know how long to cool down to transport. Transport would be nightmare, we would have to fly it, we would need some kind of heavy duty hellicarrier which is something we don't own and renting one would would raise too much suspicion. We can't involve the military, it's too many questions and we can't afford the military knowing about The Machine, they would take it without hesitation use it improperly and accuse us of who knows what, and Twilla Inc would be done for. Thousands upon thousands would be homeless, hopeless, heartbroken, with nowhere to go, this place is a haven for us and that Machine is the only thing that makes all of this possible.” Rachel explained with a pained expression.
Upon the elevators opening they were met with a group of people already in heated arguments. Twilla's children, doctors, technicians, scientists and specialists all fighting.
Paige huffed and put her fingers to her lips and blew as hard as she could, resulting in an almost deafening whistle. “Fighting gets us no where, we all need to make a decision right now, what is most important, Twilla herself or that Machine.” Paige firmly asserted.
“I know how to fix The Machine,” Walter spoke out, bringing everyone's attention to him. “Rachel told us The Machine is sentient, it's making demands, it's aware that it's missing it's heart, that it's heart was broken to begin with. It may be aware of how Twilla made it to begin with. We know it's made out of silicon crystal. Get a silicon crystal growing machine, hook it up to The Machine and see if it can make itself a new heart since none of us can do it. I know it's going to be difficult but if you want to save at least your mother's legacy, that's what you need to do.” Walter explained, looking at Twilla's children.
“We know your mother is dying, don't let all of this die with her.” Paige pleaded Twilla's children.
“I know your mother was in a coma and is now on life support but is she showing any signs of brain activity?” Walter questioned Twilla's doctors who looked at Twilla's children for permission to respond.
When they nodded the doctors told him that there was little but it was almost as if, what is there, keeps repeating itself.
Walter blew out a breath of relief. “She is subconsciously sending us a code, a message, that's probably the sequence code the machine is demanding. Hook her up to the machine when you attach it to the Crystal grower. Thats how you can fix it.” Walter ordered.
“That's impossible, it won't work without the heart, how can we 'hook her up' as you put it, without it? That machine has all but killed her already, it's no longer viable for it's original purpose. I'm not letting that thing finish the job.” Jahan vehemently argued.
“The Auxiliary port,” Yesi spoke up.
“The Auxiliary port,” Jahan repeated disbelievingly. “That 'heart' was a filter, it was an interface, it kept the subject from getting exposed to too much electric surge, that will kill her in seconds.” Jahan countered.
“But it's all we have Jahan, we all love your mother, we all want her to recover, but even that is impossible, let us at least try save her legacy. Save what's left. We don't have to use any more subjects after this if you want. But the Machine has already corrupted all it's files, everything, we will loose everything if we don't take this chance.” Yesi pleaded.
“Jahan, if mother was awake, this is what she would be telling us to do, we must have faith.” Tezbeh reminded her brother. “We will find a way, maybe that Machine can undo the damage done to her. All of my heart and soul is saying this is the right thing to do.”
Jahan looked to his other sister, Almira who nodded in agreement.
“How are we going to do this?” Jahan asked the group.
“I can call in a favor,” Walter spoke up. “The closest silicon crystal growers are in Ohio, that's a short flight, we just need a plane and my contact can get us one without any questions.” Walter said as he thought of Richard Elia.
“So no government, no questions,” Jahan repeated to make sure.
“Yes,” Walter agreed, knowing Cabe would probably be a better choice but he still worked for Homeland and this wasn't a matter Homeland Security should be involved in for their own good.
Several phone calls and a few hours later, a plane touched down as silicon crystal growing engineers followed the machine into Twilla inc. They had to use Service elevators since it was so large and heavy.
After placing the silicon ore inside the machine and then overseeing it hooked up to Twilla.
Twilla's main screen then demanded 'Creator and Sequence Code' Everyone collectively held their breath as the helmet was fitted to Twilla around all the machines and tubes she was hooked up to to keep her alive. Yesi herself did a silent prayer before taking in a big breath and plugged the connection into the Auxiliary Port.
Everyone waited with baited breath as The Machine seemed to whirl to life. All the monitors on Twilla began to go off the charts but her breathing and heartbeat was only slightly elevated. But her brain activity was showing remarkable things.
“Everyone! Look!” Yesi called out as she pointed to the monitor, all the files were beginning to become uncorrupted.
The grower was making the most unusual noises and when the engineers peered through the small window that was shielded by a gold film, their jaws dropped. Walter moved them over and looked inside himself and watched in amazement and wonder as it all clicked into place. It would have taken a master carver but thanks to technology, The Machine was building it's own heart again, perhaps a little different than the original but it looked like it was an improvement. It had worked, everyone felt like they had to move the heavens themselves but they did it.
After the 'heart' was finished, the engineers along with Yesi, put it back. It was then that Twilla's brain activity seemed to go into hyper drive and The Machine started a new session with Twilla still in the Auxiliary Port. Yesi was in a flurry trying to make sure the session got recorded even though she couldn't display it.
“What's going on?” Jahan demanded.
“I don't know, this is different from all the other sessions, it's raw input, I've never dealt with this before, I'm recording it in every format possible but it's not letting me display it yet, I don't know why.” Yesi answered. “It's huge,” Yesi added as she began connecting memory banks into every port she could. “Like this is the largest input of information from any subject, it's almost as if...” Yesi stopped herself short as she realized what was going on. Tears fell from her eyes as she walked over to Twilla herself and watched as the brain activity began to trickle down.
“She's transcending,” Yesi whispered, her voice wavering. “She's mentally dumping herself into the machine, she won't wake up from this, when it's done, she's done, it's all over.” Yesi said as she bent down and put Twilla's hand to her forehead and said something only Twilla's children could hear and understand before she went back to her station to see what else she could do.
Walter watched as more people came in, each doing the same that Yesi had just done. “What's going on?” Walter questioned.
“They are saying their goodbyes Walter,” Paige whispered to him. “This won't wake Twilla up, she doesn't want to wake up, maybe she has something the doctors didn't catch and was dying anyway.” Paige speculated as she stood aside and tried not to cry as Twilla's children began to.
“But she's doing what everyone in her situation would do, if she is really 'uploading' herself, she'll be immortal so to speak.” Walter contemplated.
“It's still not the same, just like skype isn't the same as sitting across the table from someone, you can't reach out and touch them, it will just be a screen with her projection.” Toby noted.
They all watched as Twilla's brain activity stopped and went silent. Just like that, she was gone. Jahan gave the order to unplug her from everything and prepare her for burial. Walter and everyone else took their leave. Except for the engineers who said that The Machine was making more parts and that they needed to get more ore.
“She's making sure we will never run out of hearts,” Tezbeh said with a small smile despite her tears.
Yesi came in and took Twilla's children up to the room where The Machine would normally project the subjects thoughts and dreams and fantasies, but instead, a hologram of Twilla stood.
“I'm sorry my children, I was dying from cancer, when I told The Machine this, it literally broke her heart. I was given a matter of months and I wanted to tell you but The Machine didn't want to loose her creator. So I have given her a soul so to speak. Mine. Thank you for getting the grower, The Machine is making sure it never runs out of hearts or any other part it may need. You did the right thing my loves. I know this isn't the same as having me in real life. But it's all I can do to stay with you. I know you will come to visit me often, I know you will miss me and grieve me. But in this machine, I will be here. I leave all of you in charge of my company, I want you to continue my legacy and save everyone you can. I love you all so very much and how much I wish I could still hug you and hold you. But you are all strong. You will be just fine.” Twilla's hologram comforted as she reached out as if to stroke her children's faces.
Then the hologram disappeared and Yesi came into the room. “That's all that The Machine will let me show right now. But I hope it was enough.”
On the flight home, everyone was pretty quiet as they all contemplated and processed what they had witnessed, they had stayed for the funeral and had gotten the largest paychecks of their lives up to that point.
“If you guys could do what Twilla did, upload yourself into a machine, would you?” Paige asked the group.
“No,” Toby and Happy said.
“I don't know,” Sylvester answered.
“In a heartbeat,” Walter blurted.
Paige wasn't surprised by their answers, instead just stared out the window.
“Would you?” Toby asked.
“I don't know, it depends on the circumstances I suppose.” Paige answered, still keeping her view out the window as the plane began it's decent.
“It would be great for Megan,” Sylvester murmured.
Walter smirked at that. Perhaps this would be the solution to not loosing his sister after all.
Cabe was there waiting for them at the airport to bring them back to the garage. “What's going on guys, the job not go well.”
“No, it went as well as it could, just with different results than we had hoped for.” Walter answered evenly.
“Did you see anything I should know about?” Cabe asked Walter quietly so the others couldn't hear.
“No, Twilla Inc is just a dance and entertainment company, it was just a problem with hardware, nothing to be worried about or suspicious of.” Walter stated resolutely.
“Good,” Cabe said as he got in and drove the group back to the garage.