Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chapter 68: A New Tomorrow

The dinner was magnificent, of course, exactly what one would expect from a 5 star restaurant, but neither of them had their minds on what they were eating. Too much was at stake tonight. After the plates are cleared, Jilly reaches her hand across the table, stroking Julian's cheek with a reassuring caress. His confidence is measurably bolstered by her gentle touch and her smile which promises that they will come out this night and see a new tomorrow. He nods slightly, questioning, and she presses her lips together, tilting her head slightly in assent.

He slips the ring out of his pocket and presents it to her. He wants to say the words, ask her to marry him as he'd rehearsed, but she reacts too quickly, drawing her hands to her mouth in mock surprise, and there's no point in him saying anything at all.

"Hands, Jilly," he whispers gently, "Your face needs to be completely visible."

Jilly blushes a little, pulling her hand down over her heart instead. "I'm sorry, I kind of got carried away."

"It's all right," he answers, smiling at her blush. He can hear the soft click of the camera coming from a table nearby. The plan is moving forward, "You're so beautiful," he murmurs, allowing himself a moment to just enjoy her. "Shall we dance?'

Julian takes her out on the dance floor, holding her in a close embrace as they join the dance. This time, it's his turn to be reassuring as she trembles, just a little, in his arms.

"It's going perfectly," he whispers in her ear, "We'll get through this, and by morning, we'll be free." Which is a slight exaggeration, he knows. Their freedom won't be assured for a few days at least, but Julian is more than confident that his plan will work. He has to be.

"It's just...Julian, you were never this devious before," she whispers, "It's not you..."

A sharp breath escapes his lips, understanding the question, accusation, maybe, behind her words. "Sometimes I don't even know who I mean when I say 'I'," he admits, "I've never stopped thinking of myself as Julian, but I have several lifetimes of Geoffrey's memories, his experiences, in my head. Even when we get free of MorcuCorp, I'm never going to be free of that. It's changed me, and it will probably continue to change me. My only fear is that the man I'm becoming won't be a man you can love."

"That won't happen," she whispers, moving in time with him, "I won't let that happen."

"Your confidence is what will see us through this, Jilly," he answers, believing, for the moment at least, that she can forge a happy ending for them with the strength of her will alone. 

"I still don't understand why we're doing this," she says, "Why not just let me call Fergus and tell him what we're doing? How can you even be sure he'll get the message from some internet article about our fake engagement?"

"You know Fergus," Julian explains, "He doesn't trust me at all. And he's naturally wary of whatever is presented to him, so he inspects everything carefully and looks for other angles to approach things. So, we're giving him what he wants, a puzzle to solve, a code to break. And the key to MorcuCorp's back door."

"And you're sure he'll get all that? From one article? What if he doesn't see it?"

"He'll see it. Tasha's a long time subscriber to this particular feed. Hack journalism, conspiracy theories.  MorcuCorp has been running it for decades, creating stories about itself. It's part of how they control their image. Geoffrey has kept himself out of the limelight as much as possible, to keep questions about his eternal, unchanging, presence at bay, so his sudden public appearance with a 'mystery girl' will spark their readers' interests, even if it is a bit of society fluff. And of course, your picture in the article will make sure Tasha shares this with Fergus. I have every confidence that he'll spot the cypher in the article immediately. I designed it for him. When he figures it out, he will act on it. His life depends on it."

Julian twirls her around, letting go of their plots and schemes long enough to enjoy their dance.

His phone buzzes in his pocket, the signal he was waiting for it. "The article is out," he tells Jilly as they swing to the music, "It's time for phase two. Are you ready?"

"Let's do this," she nods.

Timing is crucial now, but she's so beautiful, right now, in this moment, that Julian can't help but take his time, drawing her close to him for a long, passionate kiss.

"I love you, Jilly," he whispers, squeezing her one more time.

"I love you," she answers,"Now let's go."

The bodyguard, a MorcuCorp agent, is an inconvenience imposed on him by Tourmaline, one he could not refuse without arousing her suspicions even more.

"Your car, Mr. Landgraab," the bodyguard greet him.

Jilly giggles and teeters unsteadily in his arms as they approach, as though she was a little too buzzed to walk without support. Right on time, Julian's phone buzzes in his pocket.

"I've got a call," he says to the bodyguard, "Help my fiancee into the car, will you? She's had a bit too much champagne tonight." 

Jilly giggles as she stumbles toward the waiting bodyguard, who extends an arm to help her to the car. Julian takes his phone out of his pocket. "Tourmaline, what is it?" he answers in a clipped, harsh tone, as though annoyed by the interruption.

"Daedalus has been attacked," Tourmaline informs him, using the code name for the computer that controls the entire central cloning facility, where all the important DNA, like his own, is stored. "The self-destruct code has been entered."

Jillyan elbows the unsuspecting agent in the face, grabbing his arm and throwing him to the ground.

"Use your security override," Julian instructs Tourmaline in  clipped, angry tone, knowing that nothing Tourmaline does will stop this now. He saw to that.

"It's not working!" Tourmaline answers, agitated. She's always had the shortest temper, Julian muss to himself, which makes her easy to control. She'll be so involved in stopping the damage happening on the surface that she won't detect the real threat until too late. "Whoever is doing this not only got past our security, but locked us out! This can't be happening!"

Jillyan pins the bodyguard down securely beneath her.

"Handle it," Julian barks, just as Geoffrey would, "I'll be there as soon as I can."

"He'll be out until at least tomorrow evening," Julian says as he slips the needle into the guards neck. "Daedalus is down. All the DNA is destroyed. They'll never make another clone of me." He lets out a sigh, relived of  burden he was hardly aware he was carrying. "And Tourmaline will be too preoccupied with that emergency to start searching for us right away. That should give us enough time to disappear. The rest will be up to Fergus."

As the guard falls unconscious, drugged, Jilly takes the phone from his pocket, removes the chip and smashes it. Julian does the same with his own phone, now that its role in his plan is finished.

Quickly, they stow the unconscious guard out of the way beneath some bushes on the restaurant's grounds, where he'll be safe and unseen until he wakes, and they walk nonchalantly to their car, like a couple in love, enjoying the evening.