COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
By the time I got home there was an e-mail on my Hushmail account from "Arthur." Meacham wanted me to drive to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, more than half an hour away, immediately. Obviously they considered this urgent.
The place turned out to be a lavish restaurant-spa, a famous foodie mecca called the Auberge. The lobby's walls were decorated with articles about the place in Gourmet and magazines like that.
I could see why Wyatt wanted to meet me here, and it wasn't just the food. The restaurant was set up for maximum discretion—for private meetings, for extramarital affairs, whatever. In addition to the main dining room, there were these small, separate alcoves for private dining, which you could enter and leave directly from the parking lot without having to go through the main part of the restaurant. It reminded me of a high-class motel.
Wyatt was sitting at a table in a private alcove with Judith Bolton. Judith was cordial, and even Wyatt seemed a little less hostile than usual. Maybe that was because I'd been so successful in getting him what he wanted. Maybe he was on his second glass of wine, or maybe it was Judith, who seemed to exert a mysterious sway over him. I was pretty sure there was nothing going on between Judith and Wyatt, at least based on their body language. But they were obviously close, and he deferred to her in a way he didn't defer to anyone else.
A waiter brought me a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Wyatt told him to leave, come back in fifteen minutes when he was ready to order. Now we were alone in here: me, Wyatt, and Judith Bolton.
"Adam," said Wyatt as he gnawed on a piece of focaccia, "those files you got from the CFO's office—they were very helpful."
"Good," I said. Now I was Adam? And an actual compliment? It gave me the heebie-jeebies.
"Especially that term sheet on this company Delphos," he went on. "Obviously it's a linchpin, a crucial acquisition for Trion. No wonder they're willing to pay five hundred million bucks in stock for it. Anyway, that finally solved the mystery. That put the last piece of the puzzle into place. We've figured out AURORA."
I gave him a blank look, like I really didn't care, and nodded.
"This whole business was worth it, worth every penny," he said. "The enormous trouble we went to to get you inside Trion, the training, the security measures. The expense, the huge risks—they were all worth it." He tipped his wineglass toward Judith, who smiled proudly. "I owe you big-time," he said to her.
I thought: And what am I, chopped liver?
"Now, I want you to listen to me very closely," Wyatt said. "Because the stakes are immense, and I want you to understand the urgency. Trion Systems appears to have developed the most important technological breakthrough since the integrated circuit. They've solved a problem that a lot of us have been working on for decades. They've just changed history."
"Are you sure you want to be telling me this?"
"Oh, I want you taking notes. You're a smart boy. Pay close attention. The age of the silicon chip is over. Somehow Trion's managed to develop an optical chip."
He stared at me with boundless contempt. Judith spoke earnestly, quickly, as if to cover over my gaffe. "Intel's spent billions trying to crack this without success. The Pentagon's been working on it for over a decade. They know it'll revolutionize their aircraft and missile navigation systems, so they'll pay almost anything to get their hands on a working optical chip."
"The opto-chip," Wyatt said, "handles optical signals—light—instead of electronic ones, using a substance called indium phosphide."
I remember reading something about indium phosphide in Camilletti's files. "That's the stuff that's used for building lasers."
"Trion's cornered the market on the shit. That was the tip-off. They need indium phosphide for the semiconductor in the chip—it can handle much higher data-transfer speeds than gallium arsenide."
"You've lost me," I said. "What's so special about it?"
"The opto-chip has a modulator capable of switching signals at a hundred gigabytes a second."
I blinked. This was all Urdu to me. Judith was watching him, rapt. I wondered if she got this.
"It's the goddamned fucking Holy Grail. Let me put it to you in simple terms. A single particle of opto-chip one-hundredth the diameter of a human hair will now be able to handle all of a corporation's telephone, computer, satellite, and television traffic at once. Or maybe you can wrap your mind around this, guy: with the optical chip, you can download a two-hour movie in digital format in one-twentieth of a second, you get it? This is a fucking quantum leap in the industry, in computers and handhelds and satellites and cable TV transmission, you name it. The opto-chip's going to enable things like this"—he held up his Wyatt Lucid handheld—"to receive flicker-free TV images. It is so vastly superior to any existing technology—it's capable of higher speeds, requiring far lower voltage, lower signal loss, lower heat levels.... It's amazing. It's the real deal."