Seattle's tech community is all a twitter over the latest news that the secretive data mining firm Applied Diffusion Research (ADR) has been bought out by Amasales, the internet marketing colossus. Founder Mary Robinson and her partner Sean Carroll have reportedly each received a seven figure payoff in the sale, with additional stock options for Ms. Robinson. Sean was notorious for his role in the ‘Billygate’ affair (which sank Senator Clarkson's 2012 presidential bid) but had ‘fallen off the radar’ in recent months. Mary has always been a shadowy figure, even to those who worked with her, none of the ex-ADR employees we contacted would speak to us, but others who have dealt with her in the past have described her as ‘brilliant’ and ‘driven.’ It is thought that by purchasing ADR Amasales was seeking to beef up its communications security, recent embarrassing incidents have led Amasales to rethink its approach to data encryption. ADR's proprietary systems proved to be uncrackable during the Billygate affair, one of the few systems without an NSA 'backdoor' according to experts in the field.
As a couple, Mary and Sean have been seen together more often since Sean's return from Washington D.C.. Mary has also been spotted with Molly Berenson, Sean's former girlfriend, starting tongues in the tight-knit tech community wagging. Pictures and more on page 5.
“Oh, Mary,” Sean said, embracing her.
“Careful, you wouldn’t want to squeeze any more barf out of me,” Mary said, “I’ve just surprised you with the news that I’m pregnant, I’m reeking of puke and yet you still put your arms around me. Most men would run away. Your mother must have done something right when she was raising you.”
“And my Aunt Tina,” said Sean, “I know what I want and I want you, and our baby. Anyway, what’s a little vomit between friends? There’s mouthwash in my shaving kit.”
“I never thought I’d have a man, much less a baby, but there is something about all this, the things we’ve gone through… how we got together… it’s as if we’re in some weird techie rom-com. Do you think, maybe, there is some greater force at work?” Mary’s eyes were glistening.
“Destiny? Sure, why not? Stranger things have happened. To me. Mary, this is such a great thing. For us. Mary… are you crying?”
“I’m going to use that mouthwash now,” Mary turned away and went back into the bathroom.
A low rumble in the distance signaled the approach of a storm. Sean went out onto the small balcony where he could see lightning sparking over the distant mountains. A thunderstorm here was different than one in Seattle. It was also different from the glorious thunderstorms he experienced as a child, in Iowa. Here the sky was open, almost clear in spots, with its ethereal electrical discharges playing among thin clouds—not like the massive Iowa thunderbolts that burned jagged paths to the ground. Sean heard the bathroom door open and saw Mary come out. Joining him on the balcony, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.
“You’re a good man, Sean… ” she whispered, “… may nothing ever come between us.”
Roger Ramsen, alone in his home office, scrolled down the front page of Tech Creeper. His eyes narrowed when he read about Mary and Sean’s buyout. It was obvious from the article that he had not been the only person interested in the couple. He picked up his phone and entered a speed dial code.
"Ayup," came a terse reply.
“Ramsen here. What is the latest information you have on Carroll and Robinson, besides what I can read in the online tabloids? Any reaction to the baby picture we sent Sean? Any scandalous actions at all?”
"No reaction to the photo that we know of. No records of any calls or trips to Iceland. Your guy is a deadbeat dad. I've got some photographs of him and Robinson coming out of a dive bar, but it's nothing really. They don't lead the most exciting lives."
“What about the surveillance cameras on their apartment, anyone seen going in or out, any parties?”
"Nobody went in or out but them. What are you looking for?"
“I need something to discredit them: drug dealers, hackers, spies; what about that Molly woman—she was connected to that guy who got out of prison—there's a picture of Mary and her together in a coffee shop in the Tech Creeper story, ferchristssake. Have you looked at all the surveillance footage?”
"Everything but the night footage of their balcony. They turn off the lights around ten and then they get up around six."
“Did you look at it at all? Look again, look at all of it, there has to be something.”
"OK, Mr. Ramsen. There's ten hours of it at one frame per second, it will take a while, even at a faster playback."
“Call me when you’ve finished.”
Ramsen hung up. He was tired but too agitated to sleep. He surfed the net, intently, as if he was on the verge of a great discovery. After an hour of this restless behavior, he was interrupted by a knock on the door.
Sally O'Donnell walked in.
“Aren't you going to bed? It's after midnight,” she said.
“In a minute… ” Roger said, “Just a few things I'm working on”
As he was speaking the phone chirped.
“Excuse me,” He picked up the receiver, “Ramsen here.”
"Good News, bad news. Good news: I've got something. I put the best shots in an email, they're still raw, but you'll get the idea."
His computer flashed a notification in the corner.
“I’ve got them.”
Ramsen opened the files. The images were of Mary on her balcony with arms upraised. She was naked.
Sally looked over his shoulder at the screen.
“Great work, where are Robinson and Carroll now?” said Ramsen into the phone.
"That's the bad news. They're gone, the last confirmed sighting was at 1100 hours, boarding the Edmonds ferry. The tail that I had following them missed the cut-off. They haven't returned. The Olympic Peninsula is pretty big."
“They’ll turn up. Get those files enhanced and send them to me in the morning.”
"Ayup Roger, over and out."
Roger hung up.
“Roger, this is still about Sean and Mary, isn’t it?” asked Sally. “Why won’t you leave them alone?”
“He’s not going to get away with this. He’s got money now, enough for a lawsuit. He’ll try to take Clarkson for every penny he has.”
“What is that picture supposed to prove?”
“It proves that that black bitch of his is a witch.”