Paranoia (048 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.

Part Three: 24 (Cont'd)

I gave him the CD of all recent Trion hires I'd downloaded from the Web site, and a couple of sheets of paper, covered with typed notes. While he was reading through my notes, the Japanese woman came back with another tray and began to set before Wyatt an array of tiny, perfect, sculptural pieces of sushi and sashimi on lacquered mahogany boxes, with little mounds of white rice and pale-green wasabi and pink slices of pickled ginger. Wyatt didn't look up; he was too absorbed in the notes I'd brought him. After a few minutes he picked up a small black phone on the table, which I hadn't noticed before, and said something in a low voice. I thought I heard the word "fax."

Finally he looked at me. "Good job," he said. "Very interesting."

Another woman appeared, a prim middle-aged woman, lined face, gray hair, reading glasses on a chain around her neck. She smiled, took the sheaf of papers from him, left without saying a word. Did he keep a secretary on call all night?

Wyatt picked up a pair of chopsticks and lifted a morsel of raw fish to his mouth, chewed thoughtfully while he stared at me. "Do you understand the superiority of the Japanese diet?" he said.

I shrugged. "I like tempura and stuff."

He scoffed, shook his head. "I'm not talking about tempura. Why do you think Japan leads the world in life expectancy? A low-fat, high-protein diet, rich in plant foods, high in antioxidants. They eat forty times more soy than we do. For centuries they refused to eat four-legged creatures."

"Okay," I said, thinking: And your point is ...?

He took another mouthful of fish. "You really ought to get serious about enhancing the quality of your life. You're, what, twenty-five?"


"You've got decades ahead of you. Take care of your body. The smoking, the drinking, the Big Macs and all that crap—that shit's got to stop. I sleep three hours a night. Don't need more than that. Are you having fun, Adam?"


"Good. You're not there to have fun. Are you comfortable at Trion in your new role?"

"I'm learning the ins and outs. My boss is a serious bitch—"

"I'm not talking about your cover. I'm talking about your real job—the penetration."

"Comfortable? No, not yet."

"It's pretty high-stakes. I feel your pain. You still see your old friends?"


"I don't expect you to dump them. That might raise suspicions. But you better make goddamned sure you keep your mouth shut, or you'll be in a world of shit."


"I assume I don't need to remind you of the consequences of failure."

"I don't need to be reminded."

"Good. Your job's difficult, but failure is far worse."

"Actually, I sort of like being at Trion." I was being truthful, but I also knew he'd take it as a jab.

He looked up, smirked as he chewed. "I'm delighted to hear that."

"My team is making a presentation before Augustine Goddard pretty soon."

"Good old Jock Goddard, huh? Well, you'll see quickly he's a pretentious, sententious old gasbag. I think he actually believes all the ass-kissing profiles, that 'conscience of high-tech' bullshit you always see in Fortune. Really believes his shit doesn't stink."

I nodded; what was I supposed to say? I didn't know Goddard, so I couldn't agree or disagree, but Wyatt's envy was pretty transparent.

"When are you presenting to the old fart?"

"Couple weeks."

"Maybe I can be of some assistance."

"I'll take whatever help I can get."

The phone rang, and he picked it right up. "Yes?" He listened for a minute. "All right," he said, then hung up. "You hit something. In a week or two you'll be receiving a complete backgrounder on this Alana Jennings."

"Sure, like I got on Lundgren and Sommers."

"No, this is of another magnitude of detail."


"Because you'll want to follow up. She's your way in. And now that you have a code name, I want the names of everyone connected in any way with AURORA. Everyone, from project director all the way down to janitor."

"How?" As soon as I said it, I regretted it.

"Figure it out. That's your job, man. And I want it tomorrow."


"That's right."

"All right," I said, with just a little defiance creeping into my voice. "But then you'll have what you need, right? And we'll be done."

"Oh, no," he said. He smiled, flashing his big white chompers. "This is only the beginning, guy. We've barely scratched the surface."

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