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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 the genome 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.
Friday, October 28 Meyrin, Switzerland
Jűrgen rushed from his apartment at 9:05 a.m., tightening his watch strap. The Mercedes limousine waited at the curb. He climbed into the backseat. Leather upholstery squeaked under his long legs. “Let’s go. I’m expected in twenty minutes,” he said through the limo window. The limo hummed through the foothills of the jagged Jura Mountains. He peered at the silver shimmer of Lake Geneva, surrounded by snow-capped peaks that extended to the Savoy Alps in France. Cloud mist swirled over the water. Through the Mylar glass, he glimpsed platinum-blonde hair beneath the driver’s cap. “Where’s Adrian?” Jűrgen craned toward 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?”
The driver cocked her head around. “Yes, Director Hansen.” At least the limo service had filled her in. Hugging mountain roads, the car passed schoolchildren playing tag at a bus stop. Jűrgen slid papers from his briefcase to occupy himself. Drumming his fingers, he studied notes. He pictured the faces of executives of the medical community who’d flown from around the world to visit CERN. When the BlackBerry in his suit coat pocket vibrated, he scanned Tatiana’s missive: I’m wearing Escada perfume—soon that will be all I’m wearing. He checked the closeness of his shave. A petite redhead who traveled with silk handcuffs and a riding crop awaited him after his speech at CERN. Tatiana helped him unwind with sexual role-play. He text messaged a reply, giving her the address of their chateau. Tonight they would meet high in the Alps where he would star in her Russian seductress game. He adjusted the knot on his tie. 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. Jűrgen envisioned Tatiana’s lips working his chest while the limo cut along the highway, dropping in elevation—until the tires grumbled over rocks. The noise pulled him back to reality.
The driver veered the limo off the highway. Jűrgen’s hands went clammy. “What are you doing?” They’d turned onto a side road where the road narrowed. Giving way to clover and dirt, the lane settled into a partially paved cow trail. He hammered on the glass divide. “Driver.” Without answering, the driver pressed a button in the glove compartment. Looking through the rear window again, his eye caught the Bernese Alpine Valley. “Where are you going?” “There is construction, Sir,” the chauffeur said sternly. “We’re making a detour.” “Listen to me.” The driver rolled up her sleeves. “We are close.” The 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. A wave of nerves fluttered through his stomach. The driver got out and whipped open Jűrgen’s car door. “Out.” Jűrgen gripped the edge of his seat. “What do you want?”
The hard-faced woman leveled a handgun at Jűrgen’s forehead. “Whoa!” He raised his hands high. The clearing had the calm of a cemetery. Jűrgen eased out of the back seat, his gaze trained on the woman. She had the shoulders of a competitive swimmer. Caked on makeup covered her face, doing nothing to improve her masculine features. She opened the limo trunk, revealing a coil of heavy gauge fishing line and a twenty-pound gym weight used for bench pressing. “Remove the line,” the woman ordered. “The weight, too.” Mouth stone dry, he lifted the weights. A buzz came from overhead. A twin-engine plane—a businessman on holiday, perhaps. If only Jűrgen could radio for help. His eyes swept over the wooded lake. Not even a house within sight. So much for the land of neutrality. The plane noise passed. A breeze rustled crisp leaves past his feet. “Tie the weight to your leg. Knot it tight.” Would this save her the trouble of dragging his body into the lake? Cradling the weight against his chest, Jűrgen begged, “I’ve got money.” “Save your breath.” She kept the gun trained on his head. He bent and tied, tensing for his strike. “You’re not going to stop the Grid.”
Jerking into a standing position, he lunged, hurling the weight at the woman’s head. She moved. The weight struck her shoulder, knocking her down. The gun dropped from her hands and she went to the ground. Jűrgen leapt for the gun but the woman got to it first. She pointed the weapon and fired. With a yowl of an injured animal, he went to his knees. He touched the burning wound on his shoulder, gasping at the blood oozing between his fingers. The woman got up. “What is it you want?” Jűrgen’s voice broke. She lowered the gun. “Get the weight.” Blood snaked down his arm. He crawled over dirt and pebbles on his knees until he could pull the gym weight and fishing line close with one hand. Moaning, he bound the line around his ankle. The woman brushed dust from her hat and gestured for him to get up. Jűrgen staggered to his feet, holding his shoulder. “Killing me or even Jude Wagner doesn’t end the medical revolution.” Her expression darkened, and she motioned with the gun muzzle for him 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. No pain. But he 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
The dinged-up Mazda MX6 slotted into a space along crammed Russian Hill. Lucky snag for Special Agent Jude Wagner, just one block from home. Still getting a feel for his vehicle, Wagner noticed how snugly his broad shoulders fit in the bucket seat then climbed out. He snapped his door locks closed with his keychain. Seized in a drug raid, this Mazda bore the scars of its street-gang past—pelted with dents from its fenders to rear bumper. More seasoned FBI agents got a clean Crown Vic. But Wagner’s supervisory agent issued rundown cars to freshmen, screening out potential complainers. A foghorn groaned, bassy and long. Wind whipped Wagner’s thick brown hair against his fair forehead. Across the gulch, Coit Tower glowed, a beacon in the dark. Wagner passed a family of five on Hyde Street exiting an ice cream parlor, appearing as an after dinner bonding ritual. 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 the kids shrieked with laughter. Head throbbing from straight bourbon, Wagner realized he hadn’t heard the infectious laughter of kids in very long time—a circumstance of city living. At the entrance of his ground-floor flat, he kicked an electric blue plastic bag. He picked up the bag containing his New York Times—a reminder he’d fallen behind on world events—and carried it through the front gate to the Mediterranean-styled threestory complex. Under a trellis of ruby bougainvillea, he strode brick steps to his door. He shoved the key inside the lock. It cranked too easily, without resistance. The Baldwin bolt had already been turned. The idea of reporting a break-in crossed his mind, but he decided to look into the matter 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? His gut tensed. Quieting his steps, he crossed the living room. Now he regretted not grabbing his service weapon from under his bed on the way out. But he was following procedure, preventing an ARI—alcohol-related incident. The place had been ransacked. His bookcase had been emptied. Mystery paperbacks, San Francisco history books and rock concert ticket stubs blanketed the floor. Papers he
kept stacked on the steamer-trunk-turned-coffee table were now strewn on the fauxoriental rug. The odor of another man’s sweat hung faintly in the air. Wagner’s pulse quickened. Maybe the intruder hadn’t left. He listened for creaks in the floor. Except for gusts lashing at the windows, he heard nothing. Lightly, he stepped to the kitchen. 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. He backed up his email to that drive. Someone could break into his messages and obtain highly sensitive information about the Stanford Grid. He heard something scratching the floor, like hard-soled shoes. The noise sent a shiver down his spine. He braced himself. A man in a suit raced from the closet and outside the flat. Wagner rushed through the hallway and barreled into the cold night, wind buffeting off the bay. The wide intruder in boots started down the treacherous grade of the Filbert Street steps. He bobbed along in his flapping suit jacket. Practiced at navigating the decline, Wagner clacked down the steps, pursuing the lumbering figure. Reaching the bottom,
he pushed to catch up. Each stride brought him closer to his UNSUB—unknown subject. They plowed past stucco apartments and into North Beach. Wagner clipped by Washington Square Park and a closed coffee store. Five feet behind the man, Wagner lunged with arms extended and snagged an ankle. Together, they crashed to the ground outside a neon-signed pizzeria. Cement grated one side of Wagner’s face. The sting burned through his cheek. The man grunted—gripping the hard drive beneath him. Wagner pressed his knee between the man's shoulder blades to pin him down and worked to control his arms while he thrashed. “Help! Police,” a girl shouted from the restaurant. “I am,” Wagner huffed. “A federal agent.” With heaving force, he got the perpetrator’s left arm behind him as a dark Chevrolet Blazer screeched to the curb. The man turned over and broke free. He thrust a karate punch at Wagner’s neck. On reflex, Wagner raised his arm. He blocked the darting fist. The hard drive dropped to the ground. Wagner scrambled and grasped it with one hand as a blow came from behind—punching him in the kidney. The thud connected
like a sack of flour falling from a top shelf. Air whooshed out of him. Wincing and winded, Wagner held the hard drive close with a tucked arm. Clumsily, he rolled to his hands and knees, preparing to charge like a bull. In a blur, Wagner saw a swift soccer kick coming—the boot hurled into his abdomen. He gagged, curling. Knees pulled to his chest. A shrill whine rang in his head. Then everything dimmed, even the neon lights on Columbus Street.
Friday, October 28 Meyrin, Switzerland
Alone on the second floor observation deck of the laboratory, Hideo Onagi heard his heart thump. The hum of high voltage electricity vibrated through the floors of this cavernous building. Noise travelled easily in this all-white chamber, three hundred feet underground, beneath the Franco-Swiss border. This was where the famous Large Hadron Collider operated—the most expensive scientific experiment in history. Looking below, he saw maintenance staff working on a platform that opened into a tunnel. He marveled at the underground passageway. It housed a giant tube of
superconducting magnets. Those magnets cooled particle beams, speeding them through a seventeen-mile subterranean circle. Running in opposite directions, the beams were guided to collide in an explosion that scientists used to study the fundamental particles of the universe. No lab in the world matched CERN in terms of the number of physicists it employed and the extent of its international presence. Twenty member countries ran it and many more participated. Hideo’s stomach churned. Family turmoil and the gravity of this fund-raising presentation for genomic medicine set off his ulcer. Once this ended, he'd fly to meet his estranged wife. After spending months jetting from city to city to find sponsors for the Grid, Hideo realized that work travel was ruining his marriage. His wife and daughter were his sun and moon, and soon they could be gone. Perspiration soaked his Polo shirt. Rolling his sloped shoulders, he flipped through 3x5 note cards, reviewing his talking points. Returning the cards to his pocket, his finger brushed against something else there. He took out a photo. His daughter beamed in her fourth-grade school picture. He gazed at it briefly, then pushed it back into his pocket. The attendees arrived, gawking at the girders and struts supporting the high ceilings.
Two dozen board members and financial officers from the world’s largest hospitals and universities jetted from around the globe to this vast lab in secluded Meyrin. They came to the glorified agricultural village to see the scientific breakthrough which took decades to build. Just one problem: Hideo’s speech partner, Jűrgen Hansen, was missing. Hideo nervously tapped his rubber-soled dress shoe while attendees looked about, blank-faced, at the consoles connected by colored wires lining the walls. He’d given up his private practice to join Stanford and change medical history. Jűrgen’s absence could wreck his chance for vital donations. In all his years of practice, he’d never seen a technology so perfectly poised to change medicine. These were Jűrgen’s contacts. Delay of action on this genome project could cost tens of thousands of lives. As CERN’s Life Science Director, 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? 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. Hideo flushed with embarrassment as the consortium—huddled together like a mini United Nations—stared at him. They’d come to hear a scholarly revelation about how CERN would change medicine. But his area of molecular biology involved computer
science, artificial intelligence and chemistry—not physics. Jűrgen represented the CERN side of this partnership. Hideo would have to wing this by himself. He introduced himself and gestured toward the huge bright blue metal pipe overhead. The Large Hadron Collider, he explained, was the most powerful accelerator in the world, operating at minus two hundred and seventy-one Centigrade—colder than deep space. Gaining confidence, Hideo spoke up. “This nine-billion-dollar underground linear accelerator was designed to smash protons to analyze the questions of the big bang, cosmology—oh—and unified theory.” A murmur rippled through the audience. He continued. “The metal used in this pipe ring could build another Eiffel Tower.” On the wall beside at the mouth of the tunnel, exotic instruments flashed. The group was fidgety. He needed to speed past Jűrgen’s part. Attendees cared more about how their dollars could mine the genome, the ultimate human recipe book. The genome held four billion years of information on humanity. It was arguably the greatest discovery in scientific history.
Hideo continued, “Scientists wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without an enormous computer to analyze all of the data. CERN employed a grid computer system to study results.” They started to chatter. One man rubbed his arms. He was losing them. A fat man said, “Like an electrical power grid?” “Not exactly. Computer grids link thousands of computers to work as a single virtual machine. Particle collision produces vast amounts of data. Ultimately, the Grid analyzes the equivalent of thirteen million DVDs worth of information annually. Taking the Internet to the next step, the Grid 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. A severe-faced woman dressed in black pointed with interest at the flashing instruments. “So that’s grid-based medicine?” “Exactly.” Hideo spread his hands broadly. “CERN’s physicists built the Grid to handle questions that are far more complex than what 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 checked dials attached to electrical equipment.
Hideo raised his voice to speak over a new burring noise, “The Grid also powers Stanford University’s research. Through distributed processing, computers everywhere work as one.” A Persian man in a finely tailored, double-breasted suit cleaned his glasses with a cloth, his expression skeptical. “Let’s go to Building Six,” Hideo said. “I’ll explain how Stanford will diagnose every disease.” Mercifully, many of Hideo’s attendees smiled, lightening up. With a flick of his 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. He led the way to a conference room. Once there the attendees ate hors d'oeuvres until he motioned for everyone to get comfortable at the rosewood table. Bottles of Evian water and brochure packets were set on the table at precise intervals for each person.
The orderly area reminded Hideo of his fastidious wife and their heart-wrenching probability of divorce. His daughter’s face flashed before him. He moved across the conference room to get back to his performance. “Okay. You are probably all wondering how this Grid partnership with Stanford is going to help the public or medical science.” “Yes,” the Persian man held his Evian. “The genome is our roadmap to disease. All disease has a hereditary basis. We’re tapping into that with huge processing power. The U.S. government sequenced the human genome in 2003, but that was just a start and that took two-point-seven billion dollars.” “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. It’s time we matched individual treatment to individuals. Side effects and misprescription kill over one hundred thousand people a year,” he said. 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
come back on two DVDs to the patient and his doctor. That doctor then logs onto Stanford’s secured website to access the Grid. “The Grid compares the genomic data from those DVDs against millions of other online medical records, isolating tissue samples from patients with other markers to that disease. By comparing patient diseases on a molecular level, we get a world of information: a person’s body chemistry, his predispositions, his susceptibilities, and his strengths and weaknesses to drugs. The result: a customized treatment for your individual illness.” Hideo fiddled with his wedding ring. “When you combine this Grid with electronic records from hospitals for instance, well, you end up with amazing power.” The room went quiet. Then a man with a Scottish accent asked. “Can you back up? Where do those online patient records come from?” “Good question. For years, medical researchers have struggled with doing statistical analysis. Hospitals, doctors’ offices and pharmacies used isolated computer networks, blocking access to medical records for broad comparison. Vital information couldn’t be cross-referenced to gain a deeper understanding of disease. “As research hospitals acquired data, online security systems became commonplace—security systems which topped those 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 were scrubbed. While this happened, the search engines of the world connected that pooled information to create a great dataset.” “So, what’s next?” someone asked. “Already, at Stanford, we’re diagnosing volunteers’ illnesses through comparison, using their DNA. With cancer, we’ll fight mutations with custom-made proteins that conform to that person’s body chemistry.” Several heads nodded. The Persian man asked, “Will someone from CERN be speaking today?” “Yes, a CERN representative will be answering questions later. And Jűrgen Hansen, who couldn’t be here today, is the liaison between this lab and Stanford’s. He maintains the Internet connection that 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 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 virtually free, but they get power from volunteers’ idle computers. In the packet you’ll see how this Grid at CERN relies on processing power from volunteers.” Chatter interrupted him again. “I see doubt. Believe me, all we need is more funding. Isn’t fighting cancer as worthy a mission as landing spacecraft on Mars? If we don’t push medicine forward, fifteen hundred 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?” Audience members turned to one another. Hideo scored a point. “The Stanford/CERN partnership needs your support to bring a non-profit alternative to universal healthcare.” As the group opened brochures an elderly man in the front raised his hand. “What exactly would our endowment money accomplish?” To Hideo’s relief, eyes tracked him as he circled the table. “First, your dollars will guarantee processing power from places like CERN. Second, they’ll extend our Grid to every home PC. The system will run 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 formulate the customized drugs.” Hideo’s mind strayed to his flight. There was barely enough time for him to get to the airport. After delivering his final plea for investment, he beckoned for Jűrgen’s earnest assistant. A young man wearing a tie and short sleeves entered the room with a remote control in hand. Glancing at the wall clock, Hideo announced that the CERN representative would answer any follow up questions about the physics laboratory. Hideo excused himself, checking his pocket to make sure that his plane ticket was there. His pitch had to have won some new backers. But no word back from Jűrgen. Something had to be wrong. His absence could’ve blown this event. Fortunately, Hideo was quick on his feet. Any money raised today could help save countless lives and level another blow against the traditional healthcare. But Hideo guarded against hubris. Mainstream medicine enjoyed an iron grip on the American public and any alternative such as the Stanford Grid would face powerful opposition.
Friday, October 28
San Francisco, CA
Cars idled in traffic outside the pizzeria where Jude Wagner had lay on the ground. Red and blue emergency lights beamed across retail buildings on Columbus Avenue. A patrol car’s P.A. chirp signaled for traffic to move. The action drew curious looks from the late crowd. Wagner was released by the UNSUB who ran to a waiting Chevrolet Blazer that roared off. A cruiser rounded the corner. Lying on the sidewalk, Wagner had drifted to high school wrestling practice—a time when grappling was sport. Then a voice from above circled in Wagner’s head. “Hey, time to get up.” His eyes cracked open to three heads silhouetted against the night sky. Two cops and a bystander. The older officer with a bushy mustache stared coldly. Wagner cradled his midsection. The smell of corn meal crust pumping from the pizzeria told him where he was, but it didn’t help his wrenching gut. “Did you get him?” Wagner asked. One of the officers shook his head. Wagner unsteadily got up and took a step. “I’m FBI.” “Slow down,” the older officer with the mustache said. “Show me your ID.”
Wagner was handling things too cavalierly, forgetting what he’d learned in training. Many on-duty cops resented the bureau. Feds had a reputation for a lot of things, including padding arrest reports with busts made by beat officers. He showed his creds and handed over his wallet. The older cop checked his badge. Inside the wallet, he came across a Stanford magnetic clearance card. “Why the Stanford ID, Agent Wagner?” the cop asked, stroking his mustache. “I do some special work for them.” Wagner avoided elaborating on his role in the genomics initiative at Stanford. Beat cops couldn’t be bothered with how he used to work for Stanford and still looked out for the University’s computer security. “And you work at the FBI?” Jude blinked dirt from his eyes. “I’m a field agent.” “Doing?” “Electronic surveillance for the bureau’s grid computer.” Jude tapped the hard drive. A biting wind rushed down the street. The bystander slipped into the pedestrian traffic. Headlights from passing cars reflected on the younger cop’s brass nameplate above his midnight blue shirt pocket. The name Flanagan showed.
“What happened?” Flanagan asked, hooking a thumb on his belt. He had the glare of a baseball umpire. “Did you see him?” Wagner wiped sidewalk dirt from the hard drive, then touched blood droplets on his cheek. “See who?” “Did you at least see the dark Blazer?” “Cool down.” The older officer said, lips creased tight. “Shit—the guy was even more trained in hand-to-hand combat than me.” “He was after that . . . computer part?” The younger cop pointed at the hard drive that Wagner held in his hands. The older cop muttered, “That’s why you’re playing tackle here on Columbus?” Wagner explained the break-in at his apartment and his subsequent chase. Flanagan opened a leather-bound notepad and scratched notes, weighing the account. The older officer asked, “So that’s what you do professionally, Cyber work at the bureau?” There was a skeptical tone in his voice. Wagner said, “Don’t I look like a workaholic? You want a description of the thief, right?” Earnestly holding the pad, Flanagan filled his page.
After a quick ride up the hill in the squad car, the three of them trod through Wagner’s hallway. The older cop gathered loose paper from the floor, and leafed through them. Wagner swiped the papers out of his hand. “Hey.” The older cop said. “Are you gonna have a team dust for latents?” Wagner asked. The older cop said, “You’ve got your computer equipment now, right? Did they get anything else?” “No, I don’t think so.” Wagner cursed under his breath to the ineffectiveness of the procedure. The older officer’s eyes narrowed. He turned to his partner. “Get a load of this guy, Flannie.” Wagner shoved a hand in his pocket, reassured to feel his Grid access key wasn’t lost. Flanagan shrugged. “Looks like all we got here is breaking and entering.” Not seeing anything else missing, and holding the recovered hard drive in his hands, Wagner knew he’d have to check prints for himself. Just as well. The cops appeared ready to lecture him on the risks of vigilantism in North Beach. So when Wagner heard
the words—time for a code seven—he was relieved they were signaling to eat. The officers left without being shown to the door. Wagner bolted his door lock behind the police and took stock of things. The cost of losing Grid information was incalculable. He turned his attention back to his hard drive and messed up living room. Moving to his computer desk, he blew debris from the hard drive with a can of compressed air and slid the drive into its bay. Navigating to drive F, he saw with relief that the files were intact. The pounding in his chest slowed, but only a little. He went to the kitchen freezer and pulled a bag out of Birds Eye frozen corn for his throbbing cheek. He stared in the bathroom mirror at road burn texturing one side of his face. Straightening things as a way to cool down, he checked the back of his bottom desk drawer for his flash thumb drive. It was gone—documents pertaining to the Google deal were saved on it. His nerves jangled again. It had taken months of negotiations to strike this confidential agreement that would impact healthcare overnight. The impending partnership would connect the Grid to Google’s world databases, ones that held most of the world’s printed information, enabling users to query medical data on the fly. The Grid would extend Stanford’s reach to millions of pages of medical data for free in exchange for online advertising.
Wagner text messaged his twin sister Kate in Kentucky to tell her what had happened. He’d fill her in on the details tomorrow once her plane got in and her visit started. Setting down his phone, he warmed up leftover chicken. He needed to tell his Grid partner, Niles, about the break-in but opted to brief him in person tomorrow on their planned sailing trip. Wagner walked around his living room rug, chewing on a chicken drumstick. The evening’s event left him stewing. It seemed like a lifelong journey to get Stanford’s medical project to this point. His obsession with genomics never would’ve started if his mother hadn’t died the way she did—that was Jude’s catalyst. Since then, Wagner moved from Kentucky to California to study theoretical computing at Berkeley. Those were obsessive days—Jude and Niles buried in code writing, pushing possibilities with computers. He tore off another bite of chicken. Kate had predicted that living alone would lead to brooding. He couldn’t put off the call to Stanford’s genomic medicine honcho, Roger Knowlan, despite the late hour. Wagner prepared himself for a blunt and uncomfortable talk, then called the phone number. After the phone picked up, it sounded like a lamp knocked over.
“Damn it.” There was more fumbling on the other end of the line. “I was asleep. What is it?” “Roger, it’s Jude. Bad news. Someone broke into my place and stole a thumb drive holding documents on the Google deal.” “Oh, God! The world’s watching us with a magnifying glass,” Knowlan shouted, “Investors, doctors, patients, lawyers—and you lose files?” “I don’t know why I called you. This thug could’ve picked your lock just as easily as he did mine.” “But he didn’t. Start praying this doesn’t have catastrophic effects.” Through the pause, Wagner almost heard Knowlan processing everything, half awake. Finally Knowlan added, “I’m just livid over this. I’m not going to get any rest until we get that Google security in place.” He hung up. The curt conversation left Wagner on edge. Knowlan was still raw that the Grid wasn’t going to be commercialized, according to plans he’d negotiated with Pharma company Johnston & Quib. This surprise call just gave him more to complain about. Pacing out of his fugue, Wagner reconsidered the break-in to his apartment play-byplay. What were they after? One of his biggest fears all along had been the possibility of the Grid being brought down by a concerted attack. No computer system was invulnerable, but the imminent, enhanced protection that Google’s corporate security
offered, gave him more peace of mind. Now someone else knew that Google was in play. The implications of an intruder corrupting the Grid were huge. The message to the world would be clear: if a hacker could compromise the Grid and its privacy controls, the public wouldn’t donate their idle computer power to it. Nor would they trust uploading their genome to the Grid for analysis. If that happened, the entire medical dream would come to a grinding halt. With heightened resolve, Wagner took a flashlight to his hallway closet. It was the only part of his hall that would’ve been undisturbed by foot traffic from the police officer visit. He shined the flashlight low across the floor and saw a shoeprint that wasn’t his own. Then he recalled that one of his Academy manuals on evidence collection contained inserts for exercises. He pulled the manual from his bedroom shelf and found a gelatin lifter inside a laminated pouch. Removing the gel lift sheet from its book pouch, he returned to the hallway closet floor and carefully placed the lift over the boot mark to get a good impression. He let the gel lift set while he walked outside with a flashlight to check his car for a slap-and-track. The Mazda underside was worn like a used stunt car, but it held no extra hardware. Little consolation. Whoever instigated this had an elaborate operation at work. Big money could be backing efforts to knock the Stanford Grid offline. Wind bellowed
through his metal-lined chimney. More than ever, Wagner saw his long term project as a disaster waiting to come apart. The bioengineering department at Stanford didn’t have the advanced security it needed. The Grid team was behind. A nervous rush of blood rose to Wagner’s face and ears. Hopefully, it wasn’t too late to guard his precious Grid project from going to pieces. `
Sunday, October 30 Tokyo, Japan
The Ferris wheel rotated with its latest passengers on board. Dr. Hideo Onagi held his nine-year-old daughter’s chilled shoulder and she clung to her vinyl seat. The ride paused again and the two-person car swung freely. From up here they had a mountaintop view of Rinkai Park and beyond, where city life crawled serenely. But it didn’t help much to relieve Hideo’s mind from his marital predicament. His marriage was blowing away. His passive-aggressive wife steadily closed down lines of communication with him. The skyline didn’t look the way it used to when Hideo was growing up. More buildings towered, emblems to Japanese industry. The expanse framed five ports: Chiba, Kawasaki, Yokohama, Yokosuka, and on the west, Tokyo. The heavily-built landscape receded into gray. At midday, the autumn sun was breaking through a veil of Tokyo smog. “Daddy look.” Yomiko shouted, pointing at kids below chasing dancing kite strings.
“Clear day for Tokyo, isn’t it, Yomiko?” “It’s beautiful, Daddy.” Coveting family time, Hideo read manga comics to his daughter on weekends in Palo Alto. Yet at home in Palo Alto, California, he seemed married to his job. His schedule left few hours for his wife and Yomiko. If he could rewind time, he would’ve struck a balance, listened to those who called him too dedicated for his own good. But his Grid team depended on him for everything at Stanford. Right now, Hideo’s wife, Asuka, dined with her parents, strategizing about her permanent relocation back to Tokyo with their daughter. Asuka couldn’t function outside of Japan. Like some endangered zoo animal, she had to ship back to her natural habitat or pine away. She had asked for a divorce, claiming she couldn’t be Japanese anywhere else. That phrase haunted Hideo. He wondered if he was no longer Japanese. He couldn’t remember the last time someone called him “the Little Bullet,” the nickname that the Japanese media had coined for him. But he couldn’t foresee living in Japan again and abandoning his job. Fully Americanized, he drove a classic Mustang and, unbeknownst to his wife, shot pool and drank cosmopolitans after work. He’d even come to resent Japan’s outdated patriarchal systems of hierarchy and its hidden xenophobia.
With a steel clank, the Ferris wheel lurched them higher. He rubbed his daughter’s shoulders to warm them. Yomiko squinted into the wind. He knew how rarely he would see his daughter once Asuka moved her to Japan. This business trip was his opportunity to say goodbye to her for now, while Asuka reunited with her parents— parents whom, she insisted, they’d abandoned. How could he steer the Grid project when he couldn’t keep his family afloat? Shame. Yomiko straightened her bangs while the Ferris wheel moved again. He mumbled a poem he knew.
Time is eternity and eternity is time. What is time and who am I? Time moves on but I am out of time. In between. Time moves. Time stands still.
“What are you saying, Daddy?” “Nothing—look, Yomiko, that outline is Mount Fuji,” Hideo said, his arm still around her shoulders. His daughter pointed in another direction, at hazy spires. “And there’s Disneyworld.”
Precocious nine-year-old. Windblown, they disembarked from the ride. Yomiko headed to a meal truck, pulling Hideo by the hand. They purchased bento box lunches and ice cream, then took a bench that overlooked Tokyo Bay. Yomiko ate her melting drumstick first. Hideo opened his box and savored a soy-dipped salmon roll. While his daughter watched the kids play with kites, he thought about how long he’d slogged away at the genomic medicine dream. His wife’s words came to mind. You’re boiling the ocean, Hideo. Sadly, this was the only way Asuka could express her frustration with his work. But Hideo couldn’t leave the Stanford Grid Project. Not after the holy grail of medicine was finally getting started—successfully evaluating diabetes test patients with a million times greater accuracy than a physician could. Stanford’s massively distributed computer network analyzed molecular patterns like weather satellites that scanned the earth for climate changes. The Grid matched molecular information from tumors with exactly the right drug to suppress that tumor. To treat each cancer patient individually meant heavy analysis. The computer power of the Grid made it possible. He had overcome the perception that genetic engineering tampered with nature and the ecosystem. A few years ago Hideo had to wear moon-suits even for tasks done
inside air-locked laboratories. Since then, attitudes had shifted as people came to better understand genetic science. “Let’s not leave, Daddy.” “I must—I have a conference in Palm Springs,” Hideo said. Yomiko scowled. “What kind of conference?” “Computer medicine, Neko, for sick people.” She made an exaggerated frown. As she ate her lunch, he observed how her fresh, young face bore evidence of the refined beauty she would become. He wanted to preserve memories of her growing up, storing in his mind all that he would miss. Yomiko leaped up. “Let’s go.” She tugged him by his cuff. He dumped their paper lunch boxes and followed. “Where are you going, Yomiko?” She turned. “You know, to our garden, without birds.” She gave him a toothy smile of innocence, acknowledging his fear of birds. Chocolate ice cream streaked down her face. He, too, wanted to relive their Tokyo memories from Yomiko’s childhood. He followed her to their old nature sanctuary. The grounds appeared, clashing against the dense urban background of Tokyo. Nearing the garden, Yomiko pointed to an entrance lined with a maze of shrubs that Hideo knew was Japanese boxwood.
“This way, Daddy.” She pointed to the bonsai-filled menagerie. Inside the garden, they crept along pebble paths with red maples skirting lily-covered streams. An elderly garden visitor sat meditating upon sand and stones, surrounded by bamboo. “Daddy, I want to move back here.” He ignored that, aware that she may be moving back to Tokyo with her mother, but without him. “Select a rock, Yomiko.” “Okay—that one beside the red tree.” “Now, adopt it.” “How?” “Name it. Remember it. And it’s yours.” Yomiko threw her head back, closing her eyes. “I named it Chihiro, from the movie Spirited Away.” “Fine. We’ll revisit old Chihiro one day. Say goodbye,” he said softly. She thought about it, fixed on the rock and waved her arms. They meandered away from the garden, across vast yards of grass where families picnicked with wine bottlesized Sapporo and Asahi beers. Strolling with her hand in his, Hideo rehearsed his Palm Springs speech. He removed an index card from his shirt pocket. But the dozens of birds that settled in a flock at their feet distracted him, along with the two viciouslooking dogs he saw sitting in the distance, behind cherry trees. His palms sweated.
“Yomiko, we must go.” “Daddy, I’ll protect you from those black birds.” He squeezed her hand and put the note cards away. As they strolled toward the gift shop, her eyes suddenly grew large. She cried: “Daddy, look out.” Hideo spun around to confront two vicious white and tan dogs galloping toward him from the distance. A chill rushed up his spine to his head. They rushed him with fur raised on their necks. Terror paralyzed his legs. Like hungry wolves, the weighty Akita Inu collided into him, knocking him backward. Hideo stumbled. The two predators circled, snapping at him. He swung his arms, covered in grass. Anything to keep them from turning on his daughter—even easier prey. One dog shredded the sleeve of his cotton shirt. His daughter fled toward a tree, screaming. He anchored his heels into the grassy earth to stand, but the growling animals pinned him down, spewing fetid breath and slobber. With one arm, he motioned for Yomiko to keep running. “Go. Go!” Instead she watched shrieking, immobilized. One berserk Akita closed its fangs on his forearm, sinking teeth into skin and bone. The other animal bit Hideo’s thigh. His extremities seared. He straight-armed one dog’s muzzle. Its head snapped back and forward again. He kicked the other, gasping. The
second one forced its fangs into his opposite arm, yanking it like a flag in a gale. His shoulder popped and he screamed. He saw picnickers jump to their feet and dash to help him. “Daddy.” Yomiko cried. Kneeling, Hideo snagged one dog’s ear and didn’t let go. Furry tissue finally tore from its square head. A torrent of blood ran down the animal’s head, slowing it. Hideo had gained the upper hand until the other animal locked its jaws on his cheek. Hideo lost his grip. Teeth gnashed into his neck like ice picks. They pierced and crushed vertebrae. Hideo’s bladder released. He saw white, and smelt a coppery odor mixed with urine. It was more pain than he imagined possible. His struggle diminished to stop-action motion. Color strobed before his eyes. Shouting voices distorted into mumbling confusion. Sucking wind through his parted lips, he fell flat on the lawn.
Yomiko heard a high-pitched whistle blow. The dogs looked up, one after the other, turning their heads. They tore off in into the direction from which the sound came, leaving a crimson trail over grass. The canines sat on their haunches before a blonde-haired woman in a brown jumpsuit. She was crouched behind cherry trees near a parked van. Yomiko tried to
catch her breath. She watched the woman reward her dogs with biscuits, then lean over to fasten their leashes. Her gold cross, dangling on her neck, glistened in the sunshine. Yomiko moved to her father’s lifeless body and dropped to her knees sobbing. She laid her hands on his head, but had to turn away. The brackish smell of blood turned her stomach. The woman behind the trees disappeared and so did the van. A siren sounded. With lights flashing, an ambulance sped onto the park knoll, swerving around parents who swept children out of the way. Two medics sprang from the swinging double doors with a stretcher. They sped to where Yomiko blanketed herself over her father. One of the medics examined puncture marks on the victim’s throat. He put one hand on top of another and tried to resuscitate the gravely injured man. The medic covered his nose with his forearm. He relayed, “There’s no hope for this poor man.” The other medic knelt to comfort the blood-stained child. “What is that you’ve got in your hand?” he asked and pried two index cards from her shaking fist. “They went over there,” the girl said crying. “Who did?” “The dogs. A lady was waiting for them and she was here, but left.”
The medic looked at the trees where she pointed but saw nothing. He read one of the note cards: “Algorithms like Jude Wagner’s solve problems through computer instructions or code which greatly speed up the computational process of personalized medicine. How? Mathematically. Wagner’s code mines key bits of data. This way, the Grid at Stanford can sort the molecular information of a patient’s tumor and give us an individualized snapshot of the illness. It’s step one in custom disease diagnosis.” The medic had no idea what he was reading, but it looked important. He tucked the note cards into his pocket and eased the deceased on the stretcher.