The Start-Up Part 8

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But Amelia didn't flinch. "I don't want your money."

"Do you know how much money one hundred thousand dollars is, Amelia? It would take you and your brother a very long way."

"How do you know about my brother?" Amelia asked.

"I know more than you think, Amelia. A lot more." His expression hardened. "I'm telling you right now, you want to take this offer. After this, things only get worse."

Amelia couldn't believe she was being threatened. "I'm not afraid of you, Mr. Bristol."

Ted took a deep breath. "Listen, go home and talk it over with your brother. I'll call you in the morning and you can tell me your decision then.

Once we're in agreement, I'll wire the money to you immediately-and we can discuss any job you might want. I can make your life incredibly easy, Amelia. All you have to do is sign the letter." Amelia stood up from her chair and put on her jacket. "Thank you so much for dinner, Mr. Bristol, but I can a.s.sure you, you're wasting your time."

She walked out with her head high. As the cafe door closed, Ted slammed his fist into the table. "Dammit!" The whole restaurant turned to stare but he didn't care. He threw a fifty-dollar bill onto the table and stormed out.

Chapter 15.

Part of Something Real.

Amelia's head was spinning as she got onto her bike and headed back to campus. University Avenue, where the cafe was, turned into Palm Drive, the majestic entrance to Stanford University. One hundred sixty-six palm trees lined the road that led to the main quad, the magnificent Spanish fortress that composed the original University and sat at the base of the Foothills, providing a gorgeous view up into the mountainous skyline. No matter how many times she biked this road, its beauty never failed to make Amelia pause. Tonight was no different, and she felt her heart slow as she looked down the stretch, noticed the breeze in her hair, and watched as the sun set behind the mountains and turned the tiled roof of the main quad a majestic red. Over the past year this place had become a part of her, and she a part of it, and it demanded that she live according to what she knew was right. She owed it to all the minds that had worked on the campus to pioneer a new world of technology. She knew what she had to do.

With calm determination, Amelia raced back to her dorm room, opened her laptop, and created a secure, untraceable e-mail address. She then logged into TechCrunch, the popular technology blog, and looked up the e-mail address for the editorial staff. TechCrunch was known for its stances on freedom of information and user protection, and Amelia knew they'd faithfully handle the information she was about to give them.

SUBJECT: Privacy Invasion at Gibly STATUS: URGENT TO: The Editor I'm writing to inform you of a serious issue with the Gibly platform.

I've discovered that the company's applications drop tags on users' phones and, through the web browser and GPS units, are monitoring and recording user movement. A large database containing all user information, listed by unique user ID, is housed on the company server. Moreover, I have reason to believe it's this database, and not belief in the marketability of the company's applications, which is driving the sale of the company to Lloyd's.

I have attached directions to the movement that got me to the database in order to prove my logic; however, I've put a security algorithm on the pathway, so the direction will only work for the next hour; if you need more time, reply to this e-mail and I will reconstruct a new pathway. I'm writing to you as someone deeply concerned with the ramifications such a violation of user trust could have on future internet applications, for I fear that if the Gibly deal goes through without major changes to Gibly's programming infrastructure, user security will be irreversibly compromised.

She attached the directions, reread the paragraph and stared at the "Send" b.u.t.ton. Her finger hesitated on the mouse and she felt her heart racing. She wasn't saying that she wanted to take them on, she was just encouraging someone else to look into it, right? That was all she had to do; just send the e-mail, and her part was finished. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and clicked "Send."

Ted let out a grunt as he pushed the bench press forward. Six. Seven.

Eight. Rest.

When he'd gotten home from University Cafe he'd tried to work, but it had been a fruitless effort. He was too distracted. He'd come down to his home gym to relieve some stress. The large room had tiled floors and seven pieces of gym equipment, plus a stretching area with a mirror and the Pilates junk his wife was obsessed with.

Working out was helping. The more he exercised, the more he became convinced Amelia would come around to see things his way. One hundred thousand dollars for a scholarship kid from foster homes in Indiana?

That was like winning the lottery; no sane person would turn it down.

Everything would be fine.

He got up from the bench and moved to the treadmill, pointing the remote to turn on the flat screen television on the wall as he dialed the treadmill up to a healthy running pace. He began trotting and smiled at a clever Volkswagen advertis.e.m.e.nt. What a great rebranding campaign that company had pulled off, he thought.

When the commercial break ended, a news anchor for CNBC appeared.

"Folks, we've got breaking news. Internet accusations claim that Gibly, the Silicon Valley company in the process of finalizing its sale to Lloyd's for 3.8 billion dollars, has spent the past several years stealing users' private information. Everything from your whereabouts to purchases to your ATM's PIN have been tracked. We're going now to our tech correspondent Christian Johnson for the latest. Christian, what can you tell us about these stunning allegations?"

Ted pulled the emergency stop break on the treadmill and stared at the television, though he could no longer hear a word they were saying. Just then, his cell phone and the house phone started to ring. He took a deep breath and composed himself. That little nerd didn't know what was about to hit her.

Chapter 16.


Adam raced up the stairs of the Gates Building, clenching a letter tightly in his hand, his head whirring with panic. He'd only been in this building twice before; once when Amelia had fainted-she'd been holed up coding something and had forgotten to eat for more than twenty-four hours and Adam's name had been first on her speed dial-and another time to smuggle out the old monitor he kept a.s.suring Amelia he would return any day now.

He didn't like the building. It was too sterile and clean and the blue light and the just-barely-audible buzz of all the computers made him anxious.

Plus, all the people there were such dweebs. Not that he was the emperor of cool, but at least he knew where he fell short; these people had created an environment where social weirdness was totally acceptable. Like, it was fine to stare at a machine and not shower for three days because the guy next to you hadn't either. It wasn't fine; it was weird.

But he knew Amelia would be there and he had to talk to her about the letter he'd just gotten.

He found her on the third floor, at a cubicle near the window, wearing headphones and deeply engrossed in whatever she was typing.

He walked up behind her and shook her shoulder.

"Amelia, we've gotta talk."

"Just a sec." She hardly acknowledged him, still absorbed in whatever was on her computer.

He pulled off her headphones a little too forcefully. "No. Now!"

"Geez, Adam. What is it?"

"They're taking away our scholarships."

"What are you talking about?"

He threw the letter down in front of her. "Our scholarships: our tuition money, our room and board, our monthly stipend. They're taking it away.

All of it. The letter says the University is cutting back on aid next year and we no longer qualify. Do you think they found out?"

"What more could they find out? We were totally honest about everything that happened when we applied."

"How else could we no longer qualify?" Adam felt his voice shaking.

"We're, like, the poorest people on this campus. Amelia, we have nothing to our names."

Amelia was looking down at her hands and was silent.

"h.e.l.lo? Amelia? Are you listening?" Why did she not get the gravity of this? Then it dawned on Adam what she was thinking. "You don't think it was Tom Fenway do you?" he said. "Do you think he's blackmailing you to take the job? Oh my G.o.d! Do you think that's it?"

"No, Adam. It's not Tom Fenway." Amelia paused. "It's Ted Bristol."

"Ted Bristol? Lisa's-I mean, T. J.'s dad?" he hadn't told Amelia about Lisa yet and this didn't seem like the time.

Amelia took a deep breath, still looking down at her hands. "Yes.

We . . . we had a meeting the other day and I didn't exactly give him the answer he wanted."

"Wait, what? What are you talking about? What meeting?"

"He somehow found out that I hacked into Gibly."

"How? Didn't you conceal your ident.i.ty?"

"I don't know how, but he found out. And he called me and it sounded like he wanted to fix it, and so I went to University Cafe to meet him and explain everything. I thought he was going to ask me how to fix the problem. He was so nice on the phone, I was certain he wanted to do the right thing."

Adam felt his face go white. Oh, G.o.d. What had she done?

"But then he tried to pay me off, Adam. He didn't want to do what needs to be done to change the monitoring, and he said the whole Lloyd's payment issue wasn't his problem, that the deal just needed to go through."

"How much did he offer you?"

"At first it was ten, then it was twenty-five, then it was a hundred. And a job, nothing specific, kind of like choose your own-"

"Wait," Adam interrupted, feeling his ears turn red. "One hundred . . . thousand?"

"Adam, that is dirty money and you know it." He couldn't speak. It felt like there was something lodged in his throat, preventing the expulsion of air Amelia glanced away. She knew she had to tell him the last part, but he looked so devastated. "And then I . . . " she said, meekly.

"And then you WHAT?"

"When I got home, I e-mailed the editors at TechCrunch with the details on what I'd found. I put a security tag on it so they could only access it during a one-hour window, which they did. They posted on it pretty much immediately. A bigger article came out this morning."

"And you think Ted . . . to get back at you . . . ?"

"He knew about you, Adam. I mean he knew I had a twin brother and that we were on financial aid. He must have-" Amelia suddenly realized what she had done. No financial aid meant Stanford was finished. It had been too good to be true, after all, this world where she could spend all her days coding and being around people who were driven by the same pure aim of creation. No, she shouldn't have ever let herself believe four years of this was possible. One year was more than she deserved. Now it would be back to figuring things out, just her and Adam. Just the Dorii.

But when she looked up at Adam's face, painted with anger and betrayal, she felt an even greater panic. Would it be her and Adam, or her alone?

"Adam, say something," she pleaded.

"You," he started, then shook his head as if trying to put it all together.

"First you turn down an unbelievable job opportunity. Then you turn down one hundred thousand dollars. Then you knowingly backstab one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley to have our financial aid revoked?" He felt a pit in his stomach, like someone had punched him under the ribs.

"I did what was right. I did what I had to do to keep the Internet free," she said, but, in doing so, felt how weak and naive that argument sounded against the charges Adam had just lodged.

"Don't you get it, Amelia? We're poor. We're dependents. Taking this high moral ground? Taking risks for an ideal? That's a freedom and it's a luxury, and it's not one you have."

His use of "you" struck her hard. Everything was always "we" with them. She understood then just how betrayed he felt.

"Fix this, Amelia. I'm not giving this up. I'm not." He turned and walked out.

Amelia sank back into her chair. This room, this safe place where she felt so at home, suddenly felt foreign.

Chapter 17.

A White Comforter on A Four Poster Bed.

Everything was a blur as Adam hopped onto his bike. "This couldn't be real. How could she?"

The sun was setting and he'd left his bike light at home but he didn't care. He had to see Lisa. He peddled hard to Atherton and called Lisa's phone from outside the front gate.


"I need to see you. I'm outside your front gate."

"What? No, Adam, you can't be here. Dad is-"

"I have to see you, Lisa."

"We're in the middle of dinner. We have guests."

"I'll wait."

"You can't wait out there. They'll see you." He could sense her thinking on the other end, scrambling for a solution.

"Come around to the back gate. The code is 8924. There's a key under the flowerpot next to the side door and a back staircase. Take it to the second floor and go to the third door on the right. That's my room. I'll be there as soon as I can, but it's probably going to be thirty minutes at least."

"I'm on my way."

She hung up. Adam followed her instructions and carefully crept into her room. He wasn't sure at first if he was in the right place. Could this really be an eighteen-year-old girl's bedroom? he thought. It was ma.s.sive, with hardwood floors covered by an intricately patterned Turkish rug. A four-poster bed with a draped white canopy was neatly made, a plush white comforter and a dozen or so mint-green and white pillows covering its surface. But the vanity in the corner-a deep cherry wood to match the other furniture in the room, topped with a ma.s.sive mirror-gave Lisa away.

Pictures of high school friends, cheerleading camp (she was a cheerleader? of course she was a cheerleader), and Lisa and T. J. in front of the Eiffel Tower, were neatly stuck around the edges of the mirror. The vanity drawer was open, and Adam saw it was cluttered with lip glosses and nail polish and metallic eye shadows.

He sat on the stool of the vanity and looked in the mirror. So, this was what it felt like to be a rich girl.

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The Start-Up Part 8 summary

You're reading The Start-Up. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Sadie Hayes. Already has 684 views.

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