It is the back door to the brave new world. A tremendous gateway. Leonard Huxley’s eyes reflect the glow of his heated computer screen as he prowls excitedly through AlphaBanc’s super-secret collections, the soft silicon bowels of the largest financial services company in the world, jumping from file to amazing file. This last one is really fabulous, one of a collection of video clips obtained from God knows where, labeled NSXMD71109, sub-titled: Hot-BikiniDeaver09, depicting a quite attractive scantily-clad young woman in red high heels carrying a glass of wine and traipsing around what appears to be her living room, obviously enjoying herself
“F-fantastic stuff,” Huxley softly stutters, licking his lips and banging the top of his ancient battered monitor to try to jump these jangling chartreuse and violet images back into a semblance of real colors. Regretfully, he closes the clip and yawns, glances at the time: two a.m. He’s been at it for four hours straight, but he can’t stop now, he’s finding almost too much to comprehend: electronic acres of bank records, credit reports, medical archives, criminal records, phone call listings, video and audio files, all elegantly sorted by social security number, DMV code, surname, maiden name, credit card numbers . . . dozens of primary keys, relentless unending columns of people’s frantic lives—incredible, amazing, and strangely evil. Geoff was absolutely right.
It is even more than Huxley had imagined. Ever since Geoff had hinted to him what was behind the silicon curtain, Huxley had begged him for a way in, an ID and a password. And finally, in the last encrypted email Geoff Robeson had sent, he had attached them. It was the gift of gifts, but the decoded letter, which Huxley feels compelled to open again this late hour, is unsettling:
Leonard: I fear I’m in trouble. I confronted Bergstrom this morning and he was, as I predicted, extremely upset with me. I finally told him that our current activities at AlphaBanc are clearly beyond the pale and that we must reconsider our plans. He was so violently angry that I walked into the door jamb on my way out, something I have never done before. So, I must confess, aware as I am of the magnitude of the dangerous game they are playing, I now fear for my life. Until later, my anarchistic friend.
Huxley closes the message again, wonders exactly how much trouble his friend might be in. He has never known him to exaggerate, one of the reasons he loves to correspond with him; the man is a straight shooter. So many others out there are frauds and liars but Geoff Robeson is just who he appears to be, a fifty-four-year-old economist at AlphaBanc in Chicago, a caring, intelligent, blind black man, and most importantly, a great friend. And he, Huxley, is pleased to be actually himself online, a poor twenty-year-old computer science dropout who takes great pleasure in trying to refute Robeson’s thoughtful observations of a world that both of them have really never yet seen.
It is only one week later that Huxley wanders by a newspaper vendor on Lincoln Avenue, idly scans the front page of a Chicago Sun-Times and finds: SIGHTLESS MAN PLUNGES 64 FLOORS. The story that follows describes the windows removed for maintenance at One AlphaBanc Center and the firm’s chief economist (described by AlphaBanc employees as seeming to be depressed lately) who must have wandered past the barriers to take the fateful, weightless step.
J-just like that Tarot card, The Fool. Huxley fights back tears, trying not to believe what he reads. He should have tried to do something; he knew that Geoff might be in great danger. He knew of the ruthlessness with which AlphaBanc pursued its objectives, fuel for many encrypted tirades to his blind mentor which just might have persuaded him to take the dangerous steps he had into Karl Bergstrom’s office and thence to an evil free-fall . . . the fool.
He begins sobbing softly on the street corner. His great good friend . . . gone. In the end, nothing more than one of AlphaBanc’s pathetic doomed fools. . . .