Paranoia (070 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 Four: 35 (Cont'd)

"I thought everyone at Trion was into cars," Goddard said. I could see he was being arch. He was making a jab at the slavishness of his cult following. I liked that.

"The ambitious ones, anyway," I said, grinning.

"Well, you know, cars are my only extravagance, and there's a reason for that. Back in the early seventies, after Trion went public and I started making more money than I knew what to do with, I went out one day and bought a boat, a sixty-one-footer. I was so damned pleased with this boat until I saw a seventy-footer in the marina. Nine damned feet longer. And I felt this twinge, you understand. My competitive instincts were aroused. Suddenly I'm feeling—oh, I know it's childish, but I can't help it, I need to get me a bigger boat. So you know what I did?"

"Bought a bigger boat."

"Nope. Could have bought a bigger boat no sweat, but then there'd always be some other jackass with a bigger boat. Then who's really the jackass? Me. Can't win that way."

I nodded.

"So I sold the damned thing. I mean the next day. Only thing keeping that craft afloat was fiberglass and jealousy." He chuckled. "That's why this small office. I figured if the boss's office is the same as every other manager's, at least we're not going to have much office-envy in the company. People are always going to compete to see whose is bigger—let 'em focus on something else. So, Elijah, you're a new hire."

"It's Adam, actually."

"Damn, I keep doing that. I'm sorry. Adam, Adam. Got it." He leaned forward in his chair, put on his reading glasses, and scanned my HR file. "We hired you away from Wyatt, where you saved the Lucid."

"I didn't 'save' the Lucid, sir."

"No need for false modesty here."

"I'm not being modest. I'm being accurate."

He smiled as if I amused him. "How does Trion compare to Wyatt? Oh, forget I asked that. I wouldn't want you to answer it anyway."

"That's okay, I'm happy to answer it," I said, all forth-rightness. "I like it here. It's exciting. I like the people." I thought for a split second, realizing how kiss-ass this sounded, such complete bullshit. "Well, most of them."

His pixie eyes crinkled. "You took the first salary package we offered you," he said. "Young fellow with your credentials, your track record, you could have negotiated for a good bit more."

I shrugged. "The opportunity interested me."

"Maybe, but it tells me you were eager to get the hell out of there."

This was making me nervous, and anyway, I knew Goddard would want me to be discreet. "Trion's more my kind of place, I think."

"You getting the opportunity you hoped for?"


"Paul, my CFO, mentioned to me your intervention on GoldDust. You've obviously got sources."

"I stay in touch with friends."

"Adam, I like your idea for retooling the Maestro, but I worry about the ramp-up time of adding the secure encryption protocol. The Pentagon's going to want working prototypes yesterday."

"Not a problem," I said. The details were still fresh in my head like I'd crammed for an organic chemistry final. "Kasten Chase has already developed the RASP secure access data security protocol. They've got their Fortezza Crypto Card, Palladium Secure Modem—the hardware and software solutions have already been developed. It might add two months to incorporate into the Maestro. Long before we're awarded the contract, we'd be good to go."

Goddard shook his head, looked befuddled. "The whole goddamned market has changed. Everything is e-this and i-that, and all the technology's converging. It's the age of all-in-one. Consumers don't want a TV and a VCR and a fax and computer and stereo and phone and you-name-it." He looked at me out of the corner of his eye. He was obviously floating the idea to see what I thought. "Convergence is the future. Don't you think?"

I looked skeptical, took a deep breath and said, "The long answer is ... No."

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