COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
Part Seven: 67 (Cont'd)
"You know, I thought Trion wasn't really hiring from outside," she said, looking over the menu. "They must have really wanted you, to bend the rules like that."
"I think they thought they were stealing me away. I was nothing special." We'd switched from gin-and-tonics to Sancerre, which I'd ordered because I saw from her liquor bills that that was her favorite wine. She looked surprised and pleased when I'd asked for it. It was a reaction I was getting used to.
"I doubt that," she said. "What'd you do at Wyatt?"
I gave her the job-interview version I'd memorized, but that wasn't enough for her. She wanted details about the Lucid project. "I'm really not supposed to talk about what I did at Wyatt, if you don't mind," I said. I tried not to sound too priggish about it.
She looked embarrassed. "Oh, God, sure, I totally understand," she said.
The waiter appeared. "Are you ready to order?"
Alana said, "You go first," and studied the menu some more while I ordered the paella.
"I was thinking of getting that," she said. Okay, so she wasn't a vegetarian.
"We're allowed to get the same thing, you know," I said.
"I'll have the paella, too," she told the waiter. "But if there's any meat in it, like sausage, can you leave it out?"
"Of course," the waiter said, making a note.
"I love paella," she said. "I almost never have fish or seafood at home. This is a treat."
"Wanna stick with the Sancerre?" I said to her.
As the waiter turned to go, I suddenly remembered Alana was allergic to shrimp and said, "Wait a second, is there shrimp in the paella?"
"Uh, yes, there is," said the waiter.
"That could be a problem," I said.
Alana stared at me. "How did you know ... ?" she began, her eyes narrowing.
There was this long, long moment of excruciating tension while I wracked my brain. I couldn't believe I'd screwed up like this. I swallowed hard, and the blood drained from my face. Finally I said, "You mean, you're allergic to it, too?"
A pause. "I am. Sorry. How funny." The cloud of suspicion seemed to have lifted. We both switched to the seared scallops.
"Anyway," I said, "enough talking about me. I want to hear about AURORA."
"Well, it's supposed to be kept under wraps," she apologized.
I grinned at her.
"No, this isn't tit-for-tat, I swear," she protested. "Really!"
"Okay," I said skeptically. "But now that you've aroused my curiosity, are you really going to make me poke around and find out on my own?"
"It's not that interesting."
"I don't believe it. Can't you at least give me the thumbnail?"
She looked skyward, heaved a sigh. "Well, it's like this. You ever hear of the Haloid Company?"
"No," I said slowly.
"Of course not. No reason you should have heard of it. But the Haloid Company was this small photographic-paper company that, in the late nineteen-forties, bought the rights to this new technology that had been turned down by all the big companies—IBM, RCA, GE. The invention was something called xerography, okay? So in ten, fifteen years the Haloid Company became the Xerox Corporation, and it went from a small family-run company to a gigantic corporation. All because they took a chance on a technology that no one else was interested in."
"Or the way the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation in Chicago, which made Motorola brand car radios, eventually got into semiconductors and cell phones. Or a small oil exploration company called Geophysical Service started branching out and getting into transistors and then the integrated circuit and became Texas Instruments. So you get my point. The history of technology is filled with examples of companies that transformed themselves by grabbing hold of the right technology at the right time, and leaving their competitors in the dust. That's what Jock Goddard is trying to do with AURORA. He thinks AURORA is going to change the world, and the face of American business, the way transistors or semiconductors or photocopying technology once did."
"But the Wall Street Journal seems to think Jock's washed up."
"We both know better than that. He's just way ahead of the curve. Look at the history of the company. There were three or four points when everyone thought Trion was on the ropes, on the verge of bankruptcy, and then all of a sudden it surprised everyone and came back stronger than ever."
"You think this is one of those turning points, huh?"
"When AURORA's ready to announce, he'll announce it. And then let's see what the Wall Street Journal says. AURORA makes all these latest problems practically irrelevant."
"Amazing." I peered into my wineglass and said oh-so-casually, "So what's the technology?"
She smiled, shook her head. "I probably shouldn't have said even this much." Tilting her head to one side she said playfully, "Are you doing some sort of security check on me?"