Home > Disclosure(3)

Author: Michael Crichton

Sanders shrugged. "We'll see." Of course Benedict was imposing on him, but Susan did a lot of work with attorneys in Benedict's firm; Sanders couldn't afford to be rude. It was one of the new complexities of business relations at a time when everybody had a working spouse.

The two men went out on the deck and stood by the port rail, watching the houses of Bainbridge Island slip away. Sanders nodded toward the house on Wing Point, which for years had been Warren Magnuson's summer house when he was senator.

"I hear it just sold again," Sanders said.

"Oh yes? Who bought it?"

"Some California asshole."

Bainbridge slid to the stern. They looked out at the gray water of the Sound. The coffee steamed in the morning sunlight. "So," Benedict said. "You think maybe Garvin won't step down?"

"Nobody knows," Sanders said. "Bob built the company from nothing, fifteen years ago. When he started, he was selling knockoff modems from Korea. Back when nobody knew what a modem was. Now the company's got three buildings downtown, and big facilities in California, Texas, Ireland, and Malaysia. He builds fax modems the size of a dime, he markets fax and e-mail software, he's gone into CD-ROMs, and he's developed proprietary algorithms that should make him a leading provider in education markets for the next century. Bob's come a long way from some guy hustling three hundred baud modems. I don't know if he can give it up."

"Don't the terms of the merger require it?"

Sanders smiled. "If you know about a merger, Dave, you should tell me," he said. "Because I haven't heard anything." The truth was that Sanders didn't really know the terms of the impending merger. His work involved the development of CD-ROMs and electronic databases. Although these were areas vital to the future of the company-they were the main reason Conley-White was acquiring DigiComthey were essentially technical areas. And Sanders was essentially a technical manager. He was not informed about decisions at the highest levels.

For Sanders, there was some irony in this. In earlier years, when he was based in California, he had been closely involved in management decisions. But since coming to Seattle eight years ago, he had been more removed from the centers of power.

Benedict sipped his coffee. "Well, I hear Bob's definitely stepping down, and he's going to promote a woman as chairman."

Sanders said, "Who told you that?"

"He's already got a woman as CFO, doesn't he?"

"Yes, sure. For a long time, now." Stephanie Kaplan was DigiCom's chief financial officer. But it seemed unlikely she would ever run the company. Silent and intense, Kaplan was competent, but disliked by many in the company. Garvin wasn't especially fond of her.

"Well," Benedict said, "the rumor I've heard is he's going to name a woman to take over within five years."

"Does the rumor mention a name?"

Benedict shook his head. "I thought you'd know. I mean, it's your company.

On the deck in the sunshine, he took out his cellular phone and called in. His assistant, Cindy Wolfe, answered. "Mr. Sanders's office."

"Hi. It's me."

"Hi, Tom. You on the ferry?"

"Yes. I'll be in a little before nine."

"Okay, I'll tell them." She paused, and he had the sense that she was choosing her words carefully. "It's pretty busy this morning. Mr. Garvin was just here, looking for you."

Sanders frowned. "Looking for me?"

"Yes." Another pause. "Uh, he seemed kind of surprised that you weren't in."

"Did he say what he wanted?"

"No, but he's going into a lot of offices on the floor, one after another, talking to people. Something's up, Tom."


"Nobody's telling me anything," she said.

"What about Stephanie?"

"Stephanie called, and I told her you weren't in yet."

"Anything else?"

"Arthur Kahn called from KI. to ask if you got his fax."

"I did. I'll call him. Anything else?"

"No, that's about it, Tom."

"Thanks, Cindy." He pushed the END button to terminate the call. Standing beside him, Benedict pointed to Sanders's phone. "Those things are amazing. They just get smaller and smaller, don't they? You guys make that one?"

Sanders nodded. "I'd be lost without it. Especially these days. Who can remember all the numbers? This is more than a telephone: it's my telephone book. See, look." He began to demonstrate the features for Benedict. "It's got a memory for two hundred numbers. You store them by the first three letters of the name." Sanders punched in K-A-H to bring up the international number for Arthur Kahn in Malaysia. He pushed SEND, and heard a long string of electronic beeps. With the country code and area code, it was thirteen beeps.

`Jesus," Benedict said. "Where are you calling, Mars?"

`Just about. Malaysia. We've got a factory there."

DigiCom's Malaysia operation was only a year old, and it was manufacturing the company's new CD-ROM players-units rather like an audio CD player, but intended for computers. It was widely agreed in the business that all information was soon going to be digital, and much of it was going to be stored on these compact disks. Computer programs, databases, even books and magazineseverything was going to be on disk.

The reason it hadn't already happened was that CD-ROMs were notoriously slow. Users were obliged to wait in front of blank screens while the drives whirred and clicked-and computer users didn't like waiting. In an industry where speeds reliably doubled every eighteen months, CD-ROMs had improved much less in the last five years. DigiCom's SpeedStar technology addressed that problem, with a new generation of drives code-named Twinkle (for "Twinkle, twinkle, little SpeedStar"). Twinkle drives were twice as fast as any in the world. Twinkle was packaged as a small, stand-alone multimedia player with its own screen. You could carry it in your hand, and use it on a bus or a train. It was going to be revolutionary. But now the Malaysia plant was having trouble manufacturing the new fast drives.

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