This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A Novel of Suspense By Alvin Ziegler
_____________________________________________ “The Grid is expected to be the next World Wide Web.” —CERN, the Swiss research laboratory that pioneered both.
"The effort to decipher the human genome . . . will be the scientific breakthrough of the century—perhaps of all time.” —President Bill Clinton, March 14, 2000 _____________________________________________
Biotechnology is transforming the world in unimaginable ways—promising to extend our children’s lives by decades. Everyone has a stake. Already doctors are diagnosing disease genetically over the Internet. The sea change in medicine came with the decoding of the human genome in 2003, but it remained locked because scientists understand less than one percent of it. Some liken the difference between decoding our DNA and interpreting it to the difference between identifying every part of the space shuttle and getting it to fly. Unmercifully, the sick and dying have been given a promise that science hasn’t delivered—until now. A lightning fast computer network called a grid is interpreting our DNA. It can solve virtually any question that can be calculated. Using grid technology, scientists are creating custom drugs to treat diseases like cancer that are as individual as a fingerprint instead of the one-size-fits all approach. Such breakthroughs could redefine the business of healthcare and reshape global economies forever. This book was inspired by actual organizations, technologies, and science.
Actual Timeline of the Genome
Four Billion Years Ago The precursor to DNA is thought to be created by the aggregation of simple molecules in the primordial swamp that existed on earth at that time. Gregor Mendel, “the father of modern genetics” establishes the principles of genetic inheritance by studying pea plants. Thomas Hunt Morgan, American geneticist discovers the basics of dominant and recessive traits and links on a chromosome. Awarded the Nobel Prize. Barbara McClintock, the world’s most distinguished cytogeneticist, determines that chromosomes exchange information by “jumping genes.” James Watson and Francis Crick ascertain the structure of DNA. The Human Genome Project, a full map of our genetic code, is completed for $2.7 billion in thirteen years. The Cancer Genome Atlas—a three-year, $100 million pilot project to explore the genetic connectionto cancer—launches. James Watson's whole genome is sequenced at a cost of less than $1 million dollars. Craig Venter publishes the results of his own sequenced genome. IBM announces plans to bring the cost of DNA sequencing to as low as $100, making a personal genome cheaper than a ticket to a Broadway play.
Friday, October 28 Meyrin, Switzerland Jűrgen rushed from his apartment at 9:45 A.M., tightening his watch strap. The Mercedes limousine purred at the curb. He climbed into the backseat and squeaked into leather seats. “Let’s go,” Jűrgen said through the limo window, lowering the arm rest. The limo hummed through the foothills of the jagged Jura Mountains. He could see the cerulean blue of Lake Geneva, surrounded by snow-capped peaks that extended to the Savoy Alps in France. Cloud wisps swirled over the water. Through the mylar glass, he glimpsed blonde hair beneath the driver’s cap. “Where’s Adrian?” Jűrgen asked through the limo partition. “Out sick.” This was no day for bumbling around in the twenty-six cantons of Switzerland. “You do know the way to CERN?” Jűrgen started to recite the organization’s address. The driver cocked her head around. “Yes, Director Hansen.” At least the limo service had briefed her. The car passed four schoolchildren playing tag at a bus stop. Jűrgen slid papers from his briefcase. He drummed fingers, studying his talking notes. He pictured the faces of executives of the medical community. They had
flown from around the world to visit CERN—some would be annoyed to find that Meyrin was only a glorified agricultural village. Jűrgen wouldn’t let Dr. Onagi bore them today. No. The Grid network would be the show stopper. He checked the closeness of his shave. When the BlackBerry in his suit coat vibrated, he scanned Tatiana’s missive: I’m wearing Escada perfume—soon that will be all I’m wearing. He adjusted the knot on his tie, gazing at the road. The limo hugged mountain contours as it dropped in elevation. A petite redhead who traveled with silk handcuffs and a riding crop awaited him after his speech at CERN. She helped him unwind with sexual role-play. He text messaged a reply: Meet me @ Zermatt airport, British Airways, Gate 14, term 2, 4 PM— J. Tonight they would meet at a chateau high in the Alps where he would star in her Russian seductress game. Jűrgen had picked up Tatiana at a Geneva club two weeks back. He didn’t know yet how long he’d keep her—girlfriend shelf life ran five weeks tops. Shrouded by tinted glass, he reclined against the headrest. As the limo cut along the highway, Jűrgen envisioned Tatiana’s lips working his chest. The blare of a truck horn pulled him back to reality. Looking through the rear window again, his eye caught the Bernese Alpine Valley. He hammered on the glass divide. “Driver.” “There is construction, Sir,” the chauffeur said sternly. “We’re making a detour.” Jűrgen’s watch read ten-thirty. “Don’t make me late.” “I’m taking a shortcut.” The driver veered the limo off the highway. Jűrgen’s hands went clammy; his claustrophobia had surfaced. They’d turned onto a side road. Tires grumbled over rocks. The road narrowed, giving way to clover and dirt over a canopied path that was no more than a partially paved cow trail. Jurgen's hands were clammy, his mouth dry. “What are you doing?” Without answering, the driver pressed a button in the glove compartment. Jűrgen caught that she wore an earpiece. “Hey.” The driver rolled up her sleeves. “We are close.” “Are you listening?” The hard-faced woman hunched at the wheel. Holding his BlackBerry, Jűrgen hit the three-digit Swiss code for emergencies. No cell signal. Communications were usually good here. The limo halted at the edge of a lake. The driver whipped open Jűrgen’s car door. “Out.”
Jűrgen clung to the limo handle. “What is this?” The woman leveled a handgun at Jűrgen’s forehead. He threw his hands high, forgetting his dreams of achievement. “Easy.” The clearing had the calm of a cemetery. Watching the unblinking woman, Jűrgen dropped one foot outside the car, then the other. This platinum-blonde had the shoulders of a competitive swimmer. Heavy make-up covered her face. She opened the silver Mercedes trunk with the car key, revealing a coil of heavy gauge fishing line and a twenty-pound gym weight. “Remove the line,” the woman ordered. “The weight, too.” As Jűrgen picked them up, a buzz came from overhead. A twin-engine plane—a businessman on holiday, perhaps. If only Jűrgen could call for help. His eyes swept over the wooded lake, grasping at a way out. There were no houses within sight. So much for the land of neutrality. The plane noise quieted. A breeze rustled dry leaves past his feet. “Tie that weight to your leg and knot it tight.” Cradling the weight against his chest, Jűrgen begged, “Do you want money?” “That won’t be necessary.” “Who do you work for?” “Those who protect us all.” She kept the gun trained on his head. “What about my protection?” “Save your breath.” He bent and tied, picturing the worst. Time to act. “Is this about the Grid?”He said, hoping to distract her. Jerking into a standing position, he lunged, hurling the weight at the woman’s moving head. The weight struck her shoulder, knocking her down. She dropped the gun and fell beside the weight. Jűrgen leapt for the gun. From the ground, she pointed the gun and fired. He moaned and went to his knees. Touching the sting on his shoulder, he gasped at the blood between his fingers. Panic mixed with fear. The woman returned to her feet, winded. “What do you want?” Jűrgen’s voice broke. She lowered the gun. “No more games. Get the weight.” Blood snaked down his arm. He crawled over dirt to the gym weight, pulled it and the fishing line toward him with one hand. Aching, he bound it around his ankle. The woman brushed dust from her hat, gesturing for him to get up. Jűrgen lumbered to his feet, checking his shoulder. “Does this involve Jude Wagner? Killing me doesn’t end the medical revolution.” “This is a good start.” Her expression darkened, and she motioned with the gun muzzle for Jűrgen to step into the lake. He hesitated then moved into the water.
Waist deep, he stepped out of his loafers then dove under the algae-covered surface, struggling underwater to untie the weight. The October sun had failed to warm the icy lake. With fingers going numb, he fumbled with the fishing line. He gasped at the surface again. And heard a blast. In the first nanosecond he felt a sharp tap. Then he felt no pain but could no longer fill his lungs with air. Another shot slammed into his forehead. Time stopped. Ripples spread in symmetry above his sinking head.
Friday, October 28 San Francisco, CA Marveling at finding parking a block from home, Jude locked his Mazda MX6 on crammed Russian Hill. He passed a family of five on Hyde Street exiting an ice cream parlor. The store manager followed them out, flipping a closed sign on the glass door. The dad’s scoop of ice cream hit the pavement and kids shrieked with laughter. A hazy childhood memory came to Jude while walking in the wind. He pictured his mother carpooling him and his friends from Little League games after the sixth inning to the Baskin Robbins ice cream shop. She bought a hot-fudge sundae for any batter who got on base. She’d be proud that her boundary-testing son worked for the FBI. He flipped off the home movies. Kate had warned Jude that living alone led to brooding. As always, his sister knew him better than he knew himself. Head throbbing from straight bourbon, he came to the entrance of his groundfloor flat. He picked up the electric blue plastic bag containing his New York Times —reminding him how behind he was on world events—and carried it through the front gate to the Mediterranean-styled three-story complex. Under a trellis of ruby bougainvillea, he strode brick steps to his door. He put the key inside the lock; it cranked too easily. No resistance. The Baldwin bolt had already been turned. The idea of reporting a break-in crossed his mind, but he could’ve forgotten to lock up himself. Slowly he pushed the door open and moved inside his narrow place. The ceiling spotlights in the hallway had been switched on. Had he turned them off when he’d left that morning? Crossing the living room, he made a fist. He regretted not grabbing his service weapon from under his bed on the way out—a new agent blunder. The bookcase had been emptied. Mystery paperbacks, San Francisco history books and rock concert ticket stubs decorated the floor. Papers he kept stacked on the rice chest-turned-coffee table were now strewn on the oriental rug.
Maybe the intruder hadn’t left. He listened for creaks in the floor. Except for gusts lashing at the windows, he heard nothing—not even a fog horn. Lightly, he stepped to the kitchen with the oversized rail-station-style clock hanging on the wall. Open cupboard drawers showed rearranged boxes of pasta noodles and chips. In the bedroom, his Chinese dresser doors were ajar. Shirts, suits and a high school wrestling trophy lay on the floor. In the mini-study, he checked his desktop computer. The drive bay gaped hollow and dark, the hard drive missing. While Jude usually backed up everything daily, he had failed to do so after a breakthrough he had made earlier that day. Cursing to himself, he heard the scuffling of hard-soled shoes from the front hallway. Jude peered around the corner. A man in a suit and gloves kicked open the closet door, then raced outside the flat. Jude barreled into night air which howled off the bay, then moved down the treacherous grade of Filbert Street. Across the gulch, Coit Tower glowed, a beacon in the dark. The wide man bobbed in his flapping suit jacket. Practiced at navigating the decline, Jude pursued, tapping down the steps. As the street leveled, he locked on his subject, advancing on his strides. Jude’s latest Grid work was stored on that hard drive. They plowed past stucco apartments and into North Beach. Jude clipped by Washington Square Park and a closed coffee store. Six feet behind the man, Jude lunged and brought him down outside a pizzeria. While on the ground, the man gripped the hard drive. With one knee on him, Jude pulled the man’s arms behind him when a white Ranger screeched to the curb and waited. “Call the cops,” some voice from the restaurant shouted. “I’m a Federal agent,” Jude said. The man turned over, breaking free. Jude snagged his leg, sending him to the sidewalk. The hard drive dropped to the ground. Jude grabbed it before he was slugged in the abdomen. Elbows tucked, he held the hard drive close. He tried to fend off the assailant, thrashing about until he was rammed in the knees—that sent him palms and face down onto the pavement.
Friday, October 28 Meyrin, Switzerland Alone on the observation deck, Hideo Onagi felt his heart thump. The sound of a door closing carried from the distance. Noise travelled easily in this all white chamber, three hundred feet underground, beneath the Franco-Swiss border. This was where the famous collider operated. He stared glassy-eyed at the bottom of a cavernous, two-story room at the most expensive scientific experiment in history. Below, a sort of subway platform served as a maintenance station to the monorail that traveled along a twenty-seven kilometer circumference. His stomach churned. Family turmoil and the gravity of this presentation had set off Hideo’s ulcer. Once this was over, he'd fly to meet his estranged wife. He flipped through 3x5 note cards, reviewing his talking points. Returning the cards to his pocket, he felt something else there and took out a photo of his daughter, Yomiko— age nine and the joy of his life. He gazed at it briefly, then pushed it back into his pocket. Hideo’s attendees arrived, gawking at girders and struts which supported the high-ceilinged space. The time had come for him to show off the scientific breakthrough that took decades to build. Two dozen board members and financial officers from the world’s largest hospitals and universities had jetted from around the globe to this vast lab in secluded Meyrin. They looked about, stone-faced, at the consoles that were connected by colored wires that lined the walls. Hideo tapped his rubber-soled shoe for composure, afraid he’d blow his chance to get vital donations. The history of science was strewn with great discoveries faced by cold indifference before they were embraced. That couldn’t happen here. Hideo had given up his private practice to join Stanford and change medical history. Delay of action on this genome project could cost tens of thousands of lives. The time had come for him to show off.
As a bioinformatacist, Hideo was an ace. He'd once owned a diagnostics company. But his area of molecular biology involved computer science, artificial intelligence and chemistry—not physics. Where was Jűrgen? He was Life Science Director of CERN. These were his contacts. Jűrgen said he’d handle the walking-tour part of the presentation. Hideo used his phone to fire off an unusually direct text message. WHERE ARE YOU? Jűrgen represented the Stanford University side of things, but it looked like Hideo was going to have to fill in for him. These strangers would render a pass-fail verdict on work that had consumed him for years. At the trial of his life, he was minus his expert witness. He flushed with embarrassment as the consortium—huddled together like a mini United Nations—stared at him. They had come to hear a scholarly revelation about how CERN would change medicine. Hopefully, he’d deliver. First, they had to see what CERN’s Grid computer did. Hideo felt like an out-of-town lawyer before a restless jury. He gestured toward the huge bright blue metal pipe overhead. After introducing himself, Hideo said, “This pipe runs through a cement-lined tunnel that extends in a seventeen-mile subterranean circle. The metal used here could build another Eiffel Tower.” On the wall beneath the pipe, exotic instruments flashed. The audience started to chatter. “As you may know, the Large Hadron Collider is the most powerful accelerator in the world, operating at minus two hundred and seventy-one Centigrade—colder than deep space.” Hideo thought a moment, then said, “This nine-billion-dollar underground linear accelerator was designed to smash protons to analyze the big questions of the big bang, cosmology—oh—and unified theory. Superconducting magnets are used to guide protons into a massive collision for observation.” A fat man interrupted, looking at the tube above. “Wait, how does that relate—” “That’s coming. Scientists wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without a big enough computer to analyze all of the data. CERN employed a computer system called a grid to study results.” They murmured, rubbing their arms. He was losing them. Fat man said, “Like an electrical power grid?” “Not exactly. Computer grids link thousands of computers to work as a single virtual machine. This Grid analyzes the equivalent of thirteen million DVDs worth of information that the particle collision produces.” A lady with a severe face, dressed in black: “What does this do for healthcare?” Medical chiefs knew less than he had expected. Hideo spoke with tension in his voice. “We’re repurposing this world computer to analyze the human genome—the total hereditary content of an individual. It holds four billion years of information on
humanity, the ultimate human recipe book. That’s why you’re here, to see how your dollars can mine the genome, the greatest discovery in scientific history. Interpreting the genome enables us to diagnose every disease. You see, the Grid will change society as the Internet did; it will not only crunch diagnoses, but will answer anything that involves calculating, no matter how complex.” He paused to let the message sink in and was gratified to see he had eye contact. The severe-faced lady pointed skeptically at the flashing instruments. “This is how you’ll change medicine?” “Let me explain. CERN’s physicists built the Grid to handle questions that are exponentially more complex than any computer systems could handle before. Conveniently, the Grid runs over the World Wide Web—which CERN also invented to analyze atom-smashing results.” A technician entered the room below and powered up some electrical equipment. Hideo raised his voice to speak over the burring noise, “The Grid also powers Stanford University’s research. It’s all about distributed processing power, connecting computers everywhere to work as one.” A Persian man in a finely tailored, double-breasted suit said, “How will this help the general public?” “I’m getting to that.” The severe woman said, “So Jude Wagner isn’t speaking today?” Jude served as the spark, providing vital computer code to accelerate the Grid. He had achieved international acclaim for his computer discovery and would soon receive the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery. “Let’s go to Building Six,” Hideo said, “I’ll explain as we have refreshments.” Mercifully, Hideo sensed his audience lightening up. With a flick of a CERN tour guide flag, he directed them forward. He stole a look at his watch. Jűrgen was over an hour late. Good god. Could he be hung over sick from a night of carousing? After an elevator ride to the ground level, they filed to Building Six. While the group exchanged hotel stories and restaurant recommendations, Hideo checked his phone. No messages. Hideo led the way to a conference room where attendees ate hors d'oeuvres until he motioned for everyone to get comfortable at the rosewood table. Bottles of Evian water and folders were set on the table at precise intervals for each person. The orderly area reminded Hideo of his fastidious wife and their soul-searing divorce. His daughter’s face flashed before him. He moved across the conference room to get back to his performance. Jűrgen’s absence had thrown him off. “Okay. The question from earlier was how this Grid partnership with Stanford was going to help the public.”
“Yes,” came from the Persian man, sipping Evian. “The goal is to improve everyday medicine using our genomes. The genome is our roadmap to understanding disease. All disease has a hereditary basis. We’re tapping into that with huge processing power. The U.S. government got us part of the way there by sequencing the human genome in 2003, but that was just a start and that took 13 years and two-point-seven billion dollars.” Perspiration soaked his Polo shirt. Hideo fiddled with his wedding ring. “What does genomic medicine do that traditional medicine can’t?” The fat man asked. “Traditional medicine is failing. It treats everyone who has cancer with a short list of drugs like we’re all the same. In reality, cancer is as individual as a fingerprint. We’re talking about one-point-four million people being diagnosed with cancer annually in the U.S. alone who are being lumped together with treatment that ignores their DNA. It’s time we match individual treatment to individuals. Side effects from mis-prescription kills over 100,000 Americans a year.” he said. “Genomic medicine will change this.” “How?” The severe lady asked. “Once we identify an individual’s genome, a world of information becomes available to us: a person’s body chemistry, his predispositions, his susceptibilities, and his strengths and weaknesses on a molecular level.” Hideo took a deep breath. “As you’ll find in your brochure, the Stanford Project works like this: a patient has his genome sequenced by a company like 23andMe based in the San Francisco Bay Area—this costs around one thousand dollars. The results would come back on two DVDs to the patient and his doctor. That doctor could then log onto Stanford’s secured website to access the Grid. The Grid would compare the genomic data from those DVDs against millions of other online medical records, isolating tissue samples from patients with similar symptoms or disease. The result: a customized treatment for your individual illness. “When you combine this Grid that crunches massive amounts of data with electronic records from hospitals for instance, well, you end up with a very powerful thing.” The audience had gone dead silent. “Can you back up?” A man with Scottish accent asked. “Where do those patient records come from?” “Good question. For years, medical researchers struggled with doing statistical analysis. Hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies used disparate computer networks, blocking access to medical records. Vital information couldn’t be accessed. “Finally, research hospitals started a movement to get the data online. And security systems were designed which topped that of the ATM business. Of course,
even putting anonymous medical information online was controversial. Everyone feared a privacy breach, but the need to save lives won the war over privacy fears. Computer standards were created and information pooled. Mind you, all names and hospital account numbers were made anonymous. While this happened, the search engines of the world connected that pooled information to create a great dataset.” “So, what’s next?” The question came from a man seated at the far end of the table. “Already, at Stanford, we’re diagnosing volunteers’ illnesses through comparison, using their DNA. The Grid matches molecular information from tumors with exactly the right drug to suppress that tumor. To treat each cancer patient individually means heavy analysis. The computer power of the Grid makes it possible. With regards to cancer, we fight mutations with custom-made proteins that conform to that person’s body chemistry.” Some heads nodded subtly. A Persian man asked, “Is there someone from CERN who is assigned to this Stanford Project?” “I should’ve mentioned, Jűrgen Hansen, CERN’s Director of Life Sciences, is the liaison between this lab and Stanford’s. He maintains the physical Internet connection which links this Grid to Stanford.” The Scottish man said, “Personalized medicine is a pipedream until we make it affordable.” Hideo stood tall to elongate his short stature. “Exactly. That’s the point here. We’re also in the business of democratizing medicine; making the costly part— research and diagnosis—free.” “How?” the same man interrupted. “We’re leveraging shared computer resources. Not only do grids run over the Internet, which is free, but they get power from volunteers’ idle computers. In the packet you’ll see how this Grid at CERN relies on distributed processing power from volunteers. “I see doubt. Believe me, all we need are the resources. Isn’t fighting cancer as worthy a mission as landing spacecraft on Mars? If we don’t push medicine forward, 1500 Americans will go on dying from cancer every day. “Why not invest a fraction of that and get a leg up on the fight against diseases like cancer? You can see what a marvel CERN’s Grid is if we’re using it to make sense of the Big Bang.” Audience members turned to one another. Hideo scored a point. Looking at his watch, he checked on the time leading to his departing flight. “I know this is a lot to ponder, but the Stanford/CERN partnership is testing a nonprofit alternative to our existing universal healthcare, and we need your support.”
Brochures were being opened when an elderly man in the front raised his hand. “Excuse me but what exactly would our endowment money accomplish?” To Hideo’s relief, eyes tracked him as he circled the table. “Your investment will pay employee salaries to build Stanford’s online service. Your dollars will guarantee we have processing power from places like CERN. That investment will also extend our Grid to every home PC—running like a worldwide database—bringing supercomputing power to desktops, virtually. We’ll have one enormous “virtual” super computer—the same way researchers from 25 countries analyzed the collision of particles here through a Grid of institutions and universities around the world. And, yes, we’ll need specially trained pharmacists to mix the customized drugs.” The room went quiet. After fielding another dozen questions, an assistant wearing a tie and short sleeves entered the room with a remote control in hand. He waited in the corner. Hideo’s mind strayed to his flight. His plane was leaving in less than two hours. Barely enough time to get to the airport. He delivered his plea for investment, and explained that the CERN representative here would play a film about computational biology and field questions about CERN. Then Hideo thanked everyone. But nothing from Jűrgen. Something had to be wrong. Still, Jűrgen’s absence hadn’t been as detrimental as Hideo had thought. His pitch had to have won some new backers. “Excuse me, everyone,” Hideo announced. “I have a flight to catch.”
Friday, October 28 San Francisco, CA A patrol car’s P.A. chirp signaled cars to move. As the cruiser rounded the corner the attacker released Jude, ran to Rover and roared off. A voice from above hollered, “On your feet.” Flat on the sidewalk, Jude was dreaming of high school wrestling practice—a time when grappling was sport and so was getting the girl. That faded when his eyes cracked open to two cops and a bystander. Nothing academic about the three heads silhouetted against the night sky. Wrestling was just a dry run for the real thing. The older cop with a bushy mustache stared coldly. Jude’s head pounded. “I’m with the FBI.” No response. Two cops stood silent. Jude got up and took a step forward. “Hold it,” the officer with the mustache said. Jude was treating these cops too cavalierly. In training, he'd learned that many cops on duty reported being treated dismissively by feebs. And it didn’t help matters that feds were famous for padding their arrest reports with busts made by beat officers. The bystander must have lost interest. He receded into the pedestrian traffic. “What happened?” The youthful cop asked, hooking a thumb on his belt. He had the scrutinizing glare of a baseball umpire. Headlights from passing cars reflected in his brass name plate above his midnight blue shirt pocket. “Did you see them?” Jude asked, wiping sidewalk dirt from the hard drive; he touched blood droplets on his cheek. “No. Just stick to our questions.” The mustached officer said with lips creased tight. “The guy was some kind of trained professional.” “He was after that . . . computer part?” The cop pointed at the hard drive that Jude held in his hands. The umpire cop muttered, “That’s why you’re playing tackle here on Columbus?” Jude explained the break-in at his apartment and the subsequent chase. The uniformed men weighed his account. The younger cop opened a leather-bound
notepad and scratched notes. While he wrote, Jude removed his cell phone and speed-dialed his colleague, Niles Tully, to tell him to come by his apartment. Jude hung up as the older officer said, “And that’s your profession . . . cyber work at the bureau?” Jude nodded. The cop holding his wallet checked his Stanford magnetic clearance card. “Why do you carry Stanford business cards?” the cop asked, stroking his mustache. “I did some special work for them.” Jude avoided elaborating on his role in the genomics initiative. “And you work at the FBI?” “I’m a new field agent.” The policemen exchanged glances. “Doing?” “Electronic surveillance, Grid computing.” Jude tapped the hard drive. “Don’t I look like a workaholic? You want a description of the thief, right?” The umpire cop with the pad earnestly filled his page. After a quick ride up the hill in the squad car, the three of them trod through Jude’s hallway. The mustached cop gathered loose paper from the floor, leafed through them. “Aren’t you going to have a team dust for latents?” Jude asked. “You’ve got your computer equipment now, right. Can you prove they got anything else?” Jude sighed audibly to the futility of this exercise. “Then it’s only breaking and entering, isn’t it?” Not seeing anything else missing, and holding the recovered hard drive in his hands, Jude knew he’d have to check prints for himself. The cops appeared ready to give a lecture on the risks of vigilantism in North Beach. So when Jude heard the words, time for a code seven, he appreciated that they were signaling to eat, and their short-lived inspection was done. Just as well. Jude showed the officers to the door. Locking it behind the police, Jude took stock of things. The cost of losing Grid data was incalculable. So much was at stake. He looked at his hands. His nails were chewed to the quick. He quit the habit of nail biting years ago after reading that such impulsive behavior represented a cognitive dissonance, an imbalance between mind and body. Generally, he left ideas like this and Eastern philosophy to his sister, but the notion didn’t sound far-fetched. Bold and decisive to an acquaintance, Jude’s exterior belied his inner tension. His bitten fingernails offered a glimpse under the hood. For a moment, he considered how he’d grown jaded by the world’s trials and misfortunes, as if nothing—from natural disasters to
suicide bombers and al qaeda—would gall him. But this home invasion rattled his psyche, directing his thoughts to security. He made himself turn his attention back to his hard drive and ransacked living room. Moving to his computer desk, he got to work. He blew debris from the hard drive with a can of compressed air and slid it into the drive bay. Then he navigated to drive F to check for damage. With relief, he saw the files. The pounding in his chest slowed, but he couldn’t forget that whoever instigated this had dangerous ideas and an elaborate plan of operation. He went to the kitchen, pulled a bag out of the freezer, and rubbed Birds Eye frozen corn on his still raw, throbbing cheek. Moving to the bathroom mirror, he stared at scrapes from road burn that textured one side of his face. Jude straightened things to cool down from alert mode to a normal state. Gathering his concert tickets, Wired magazines, and auto insurance papers off his living room floor, he realized a folder of business documents that had been resting on his desk were gone—documents that pertained to the Google deal. His nerves shot up again. It took months of negotiations to strike this deal and it would impact the pharmaceutical landscape overnight. He could call in a stolen property claim but he had taken an oath of secrecy. The impending partnerships with Google would connect the Grid to Google’s world databases. These databases possessed phenomenal power: holding most of the world’s printed information, they enabled users to query medical data on the fly. This would extend Stanford’s reach to millions of pages of medical data for free in exchange for online advertising. Jude text messaged Kate again in Kentucky, telling her what had happened. He’d fill her in on the details tomorrow once her plane got in. Setting down his phone, he opened the fridge door and transferred chicken leftovers onto a stoneware plate. With a chicken leg in hand, he heard a knock. After peering through the peep hole in the door, he unlocked it. Niles, Jude’s Grid partner, charged in, smelling of cigarette smoke. In a navy pea coat, dress white pants, and white bucks, it appeared the British Navy had left port without him. Niles slammed the door. Jude locked it behind him. “Your face doesn’t look so good,” Niles said. They moved to the living room while Niles took in the papers, strewn. “You’re more disheveled than a Jackson Pollack painting.” Niles said with his Oxford English accent, snatching paper from the floor. “What happened?” Niles took the corner club chair, removed a foil-covered mint from his pea-coat pocket, unwrapped it, and popped it in his mouth. Jude refrained from sitting. “He was after my hard drive.” “Did you get a look at this guy, I mean a real look?”
“I saw him, but not clearly. This guy was a walking oak tree with stubbled, blond hair and a paramilitary way. He came ready for trouble.” Jude grasped to recall more but came up short. Niles squinted with dismay. “I found him in my apartment and chased him all the way to Columbus to recover my drive.” Jude touched his cheek. “I got the drive and he got the Google papers.” “Damn it, Jude.” Jude glared. He was coiled tight without Niles’s judgmental tone, but he resisted the urge to fire back at his one ally. Niles said, “Maybe your being in that new office of yours can help.” Niles harbored resentment that Jude left Stanford for the FBI. But Jude had not abandoned the project. In fact, Jude’s algorithm was embedded into the Grid, and the FBI job allowed him to study electronic surveillance so that he could help Niles safeguard the Grid against hackers. Losing patient data would ruin public trust—torpedoing the entire medical effort. Jude had become a white-hat hack—a hired coder who curtailed black-hat attacks. Most quants knew the term hacker originated in the 1950s when a boy called Joe Engressia, who was born blind, developed perfect pitch as a result. Being able to precisely match a tone of any frequency through singing or whistling, he discovered at eight years of age that the U.S. long-distance telephone exchanges responded to special frequency tones. He mimicked that frequency by whistling, which connected his long-distance call at no charge. An intruder could have wanted Jude’s hard drive to obtain access to the Grid. But that wouldn’t have helped. He carried his key fob in his right front pocket. It held the Grid access key. The key displayed a number that changed every thirty seconds —in sync with the Grid server—enabling Grid access. Jude may have been cavalier about his clothes and car, but not about cryptographic procedure. “Maybe your detective work won’t be a waste, after all,” Niles quipped. “There’s gratitude for you.” “We’ll contact Hideo in the morning. Tell him about the leak. See what he can do to protect the Google deal.” Niles said. “I doubt we’ll reach him. After Switzerland, he was flying to Japan.” “That’s right. Today he gave that funding speech at CERN with Jűrgen. Wonder how much that raised. Either way, we’re going to find who nicked these papers.” “I’m glad you’re feeling confident.” Jude said. Niles yawned and stretched his arms. “You’re going to sleep?” “We’re not going to run through every angle on this thing at a bar. Not at this hour. We go at this tomorrow. Once you get into this, call me. Keep that head clear, you hear me. No boozing.”
Jude rolled his eyes. Wind bellowed through his metal-lined chimney, then his face brightened with an idea. “You working on the boat tomorrow?” “Yes.” “I’ll meet you at the marina. We can sail before Kate arrives.” Niles buttoned his coat, considering it. “Okay.” Niles started for the door. “Usual time. And Jude, whoever dared to try to bring us down, he’s not going to succeed at this. We’re not going to let him.” “Not over my dead body.”
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.