Friday, November 6, 2015

Samuel R. Barton

My brother's kidnapper was named Samuel R. Barton. He was twenty-six years old, which struck mr as rather young. And he had booked a flight on a charter plane, leaving at four o'clock today. At eleven eighteen, I rang his doorbell.
It took him forty-three seconds to answer.
"Hi," I said. "My name is Amy, and I want a moment of your time to talk about next years elections." I thrust a Walsh 2016 pen into his hand, as well as a brochure, a pin, and a bumper sticker.
"Sorry," he said. "I have a flight leaving soon. I'm not sure I have time."
"Well, just be sure to consider Walsh in 2016. He's the only candidate who's not afraid to stand up to big business."
I circled around the block, then pulled out my brother's laptop. The pen and pin both had embedded cameras and microphones. And it appeared that he had kept the pen in his pocket, which meant, among other things, that I could monitor his heartbeat.
I ran my hand over the keyboard, all the knowledge in the world at my fingertips. That was something new. During the two years I had been isolated from the world, a MAD name Thomas Markovitz had developed some new sort of Wi-Fi broadcaster, and his company had provided free internet for the entire country. I wanted so much to find out the details. But I restrained myself.
I told myself that it could be useful. Finding this Barton guy had required quite a bit of computer work, who was to whether I might need to know about our magic new Wi-Fi?

That experience reminded me of something. Back when I was first diagnosed with M.A.D.N.E.S.S, I considered it to be a separate person who had taken up residence in my head. I was reasonable. I wanted to chat with friends. My M.A.D.N.E.S.S. wanted to stay at home and take apart a television set and see if I could use it to make antimatter.
But I realized that was silly. Nobody ever says that they are committed to losing weight, only their appetite wants to eat junk food. What gave me the right to blame my weakness on some other entity in my brain.
My  M.A.D.N.E.S.S is part of me. Or maybe not. Maybe its a property of me. As my personality changed, as every facet of my identity was altered, from my sense of humor to my favorite ice cream flavor, it became abundantly clear that my worst characteristic was wholly and entirely part of who I was.

Barton's heart rate was up. There were only three things that could bring it to that level. And I would hear if he were working out or having sex.
I didn't know his phone number. At least, I wasn't sure. So, instead, I would become the first person in history to conduct hostage negotiations over Facebook chat.
Getting sweaty, Sam?
No, of course I wasn't using my actual account.
who is this
No reason to answer that truthfully. 
We had our eyes set on a certain MAD who you abducted. We would like him returned.
y would i do that
Because you are sweating. Your heart is beating faster than it should. Your gums will likely start bleeding soon. You will continue to deteriorate until you give us what  we want.
Facebook actually has a policy that you need to use your real name. I suppose that means that technically what I did today violated some rules.
wat do u want
Didn't I already tell him that?
You will release Gabriel Complex. We will send a courier to pick him up from your house.
Gabe would recognize me, of course. I would need him to play along.
You will inform him that the organization protecting him has sent an agent to retrieve him.
A one-letter response? Really? I began to understand why Facebook chat was not the go-to avenue for most hostage negotiators.
u got a cure 4 whatever poisobn you gave me
Poisobn? I sincerely hoped he was typing on his phone. Otherwise, this would be inexcusable.
Yes. We will send a second courier to deliver it after Gabriel Complex's wellness has been ascertained.
im just supposed to trust u?
You have no other option.
fine. when is ur guy coming
She will arrive at your residence in four minutes, on foot. We trust that Gabriel will be able to walk. If he is not, inform us now and we will make other arrangements
he can walk fine
As I walked towards his house, I considered the things that could go wrong.
Well, first of all, he might recognize me from when I canvassed his house earlier. I wasn't sure what problems could stem from that, but it would give him information, and information is power. Ideally, one of my parents would be fulfilling this role. But I didn't involve them because I didn't want to put them at risk. I didn't want to drag them into this danger. No, that's a lie. It was because I knew they wouldn't approve of my plan.
There were other risks. Sam might have other MAD technology, which allowed him to neutralize the virus. Or he might be an irrational fool, who would get both of us killed in some failed attempt to bargain with an organization that didn't exist.
For the second time today, I rang Sam Barton's doorbell. He answered it. I didn't see Gabe.
Sam punched me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me. He dragged me into his house, and slammed me against the wall.
"Allegra Complex. How nice of you to hand-deliver your pretty little brain."
I wish I had said something clever. 'Still bigger than yours' would have been nice, although perhaps a little silly since I was the one being beaten up. 'You really think I'm pretty' would have been cool. Or something classic, like 'you'll never get away with this'. Frankly, anything that wasn't stunned silence would have been an improvement.

Sam half-walked, half-dragged me into his basement. It was a laboratory after my wildest dreams. I could spend the rest of my life in a room like that. No, I couldn't think like that. I would feel pretty dumb if I died in this room, with some idiot chuckling about ironic wish-fulfillment.
"You will be sharing this first-rate research facility with a man named Daniel O'Connor. I believe you already know him."
"How did you get here," I asked. I didn't care. I was focused entirely on the machines around me. But hopefully some story time could drag me away from my scientific reverie.
"Once I got out, I tried to reconnect with some old contacts. It didn't go very well."
"And if he has you, he knew I was alive. Was that why he went after Gabe."
"Just a bonus," Sam said. "I didn't know about you until I asked my MADs what was wrong with me. Daniel thought it might have been your doing. So I did some searching, found a picture of you, and, sure enough, found you had paid a visit earlier today." Sam cleared his throat. "Do you have any cure for the virus you gave me?"
"Didn't think so. Well, that's unfortunate for both of us. But you're going to find away to keep me alive. I don't think I need to tell you this, but if I go, that means you go, your brother goes, and, if I have time, your parents go too."
I thought ahead. The virus would likely kill him by internal bleeding. It would burn out in, say five hours. I could keep Sam alive through that. "I trust you have an extremely well-equipped medicine cupboard."
"I do. Oh, and one other thing." Sam picked some sort of tube off of a table. "This is going to hurt. Quite a bit, honestly." He grabbed my arm. "A cyanide capsule. It will release at midnight, unless I type in the code to delay it twenty four hours. And, as I'm sure you've guessed, any attempt at tampering will cause it all to release." I felt a stabbing pain in my arm. "I'm guessing you know how to patch that up."
"Of course, although knowing and being able to do it one-handed are slightly different things."

I did it. I kept Sam alive. By ten o'clock at night, he was walking and talking again. "I must admit, I'm impressed," he said. "You know, a part of me wants to kill you. Yes, I know you're worth millions of dollars, but you tried to infect me with a genetically engineered virus." I wasn't sure how to respond to that. "Part of me wants to kill you. But most of me is just full of respect. Your kind- you are amazing."
"I'm flattered. Honestly, the respect you show for us is truly gratifying. You know, most fans wouldn't visit someone's home just to kidnap them, but your respect just runs so deep."
"I know, I know. But honestly, I think I'm doing you a favor. If I hadn't come across you, you would have ended up back in prison within a year, probably with a pile of bodies to your name. But I can find you work where you will actually be useful. You could save thousands of lives. You can live a long and happy and productive life."
"You know," I said. "Not many people would kidnap someone, sell them, and then expect a hand-written thank-you note and a cure for cancer."
"Hate me all you want. It doesn't change the fact that I'm right."
"If you really thought this is what I want, I wouldn't have a cyanide capsule in my arm."
"You don't know what you want," Sam said. "You don't realize it, but today was the best day of your life."
"It isn't even cracking to top eight thousand."           

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