The patient in Room 401A awoke in a semi-stupor. He felt disoriented and confused. He looked about at the room but recognized nothing. The pain was excruciating and some sort of bandage encased his head and partially covered his right eye. At that moment, a male nurse entered.
“Good to see you awake professor. How’s the head?”
The patient didn’t answer. The remark triggered the realization of who he was – Ernst Marklarvich, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. That comforted and relieved him. “My head feels like a load of bricks fell on me and it hurts like hell. Where am I?”
“I got a needle for the pain. This is the last one, though. Doctor Santanna said the pain will steadily subside, even as the drug wears off.” He cheerfully waved the needle in the air and added, “You are a temporary guest at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Centre. You have been with us for two weeks and you will probably be with us a least five more days.”
“Whoa, hold on. Santa Clara Hospital? How far from Carnegie Mellon campus are we?”
“Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh? I’d say maybe 3000 miles, give or take a few hundred. You’re in good old San JosŽ, California, the capital city of Silicon Valley.”
The Professor was stunned. California? How and why he didn’t know. His relief at remembering his name was short-lived. He confessed his memory dilemma to the nurse.
“The doctor looked in on you earlier this morning and you spoke with him. We’ve talked before, as well, but it’s common to have a short-term memory blocks after a bump like you received. Your vitals were 100%,” the effusively cheerful nurse explained. “You suffered a class B concussion, but you’ll be fine.” He swabbed his arm with alcohol and jabbed him, not too gently, with the syringe.
“Can I get up to go to the john to shave and shower? A shower might help clear away some of the cobwebs.”
“Sure. Let me help you. First I’ll disconnect you from all the paraphernalia you have attached. Catheters and tubes can be a godsend when you’re incapacitated, but there’s nothing like freedom from encumbrances. Take it slow and you’ll be fine.”
The professor was amazed at how weak he felt but he became more secure with every step. In the washroom mirror, he caught a glimpse of himself. He looked like a cast reject from the movie, Curse of the Mummy. With the nurse standing by the door in the hospital room, he showered and shaved. Before he left, the nurse changed the head bandage as per the doctor’s instructions and applied a small, less cumbersome one.
When he was alone and back in bed, he brooded over his situation. He didn’t remember his talk with the doctor and he had no recollection of seeing the nurse before this last visit. At least the injection seemed to be working. The pain was subsiding. He was restless, however, and once more got out of bed. He walked to the closet. This time his steps were steadier. At the closet he looked through his clothes and pulled out his sport jacket. On the lapel was a security pass in a hologram of light gray plastic with a darker gray Apple logo in the centre. Below the logo was a face and shoulder picture and under the photo was bar-like code with strange figures. He studied the pass carefully, taking it to the washroom where he compared the photo to his image in the mirror. Although he recognized the photo likeness, his reflection indicated an older more mature look and his hair was notably longer and graying. What happened between then and now, he wondered? He had to find out. His decision was immediate. He returned to the closet pulled out clothes and started dressing.
Twenty minutes later, he was on the main floor at one of the hospital exits. On the elevator he had found a hospital parking ticket in his pocket. He also had his wallet with credit cards and some cash. He stopped an orderly who was approaching him. “Could you help me?” he started awkwardly. “I seem to have gotten turned around and I’m not quite sure which direction the parking lot is.”
“That’s Turner Drive out there,” the orderly replied, pointing. Then, checking the parking stub, he said, “This is a special parking area on South Bascom. V.I.P. only. You can turn right and take Renova Drive, but that’s the long way. It’s much quicker to go through the hospital. Renova Drive circles around the hospital and ends up on the opposite side. The parking area you want is on the corner of Renova and South Bascom.”
The Professor followed the signs and the orderly’s directions to the main entrance. Once outside, he quickly made his way to the multi-level parking structure. He handed his stub to the attendant who checked a ledger. “I’ll have that brought down to you immediately.” He barked a license number and location over his head set. “How are you feeling sir?” he asked, noticeably concerned. “I happened to be at emergency when they wheeled you in from the ambulance. That was a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t it?” He didn’t stop for an answer but continued, “When your friend came by with your car a few hours later, she made sure I would look after it until you left. She insisted, you know?’ He winked.
The professor didn’t know. “Which friend? Blonde or brunette?” He tried to be coy but he wanted the friend’s description and preferably a name.
“Yes.” was the answer he received. At the professor’s furrowed brow look, the attendant chuckled. “Streaked blonde highlights, but she was brunette. Ah. Here she is now,” he said, turning. This time he was referring to a redhead – a fiery red 911 Carrera coupe. The Professor smiled when he saw the vehicle. He recalled his cross-country trip in his beat-up Buick. He was remembering. Four years ago, almost five. He had taken a leave of absence from the university, ostensibly for a year and a half. But Apple had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He had stayed on as head of the ultra secret, ÔThe Project,’working in tandem with his former student, Avadis (Avie) Tevanian. The work was his introduction to the good life in Silicon Valley and to his new four-wheel playtoy.
When he left the hospital room after his quick decision, he only had a vague idea of going to Apple’s headquarters. He would need directions again. However, once in the driver’s seat, he clearly knew where he was going and what he must do. The letters were falling into place in his mental word puzzle. The parking attendant informed him that there was no charge and that everything had been taken care of by Apple Computer. With a nod he roared out and turned north on South Bascom Avenue and headed to Interstate 280. In less than 10 minutes, he raced down the off ramp at North De Anza and, two minutes later, drove into the underground parking lot of Building 5 in Apple’s Infinite Loop complex. The large property consisted of six connected buildings surrounding a central courtyard, not unlike a small university town campus. Building 5 was one of the less stylish buildings, with smooth gray tile on the floors and a strange yellow-and-brownish checkerboard pattern on the walls. Instead of proceeding directly to the lab area, he took the stairs to the main lobby. From the lobby he looked out through the blue-tinted windows onto Infinite Loop and the parking lot beyond. The chronicle of events that had escaped him was returning and this gave him immense satisfaction.
As he approached her desk, he stunned the receptionist. “Yes, Elsie, it’s me and not a ghost. Is Steve in? I didn’t see his car.” He referred, of course, to CEO Steve Jobs whose trademark black attire of turtleneck sweater and trousers was almost as famous as the Apple logo with its bite mark.
“Sorry, Professor Marklarvich, Mr. Jobs is in Burbank all day at the Disney Studios. It’s good to see you looking so well.”
“Thanks. I need to see Paul Cunningham in Security. Tell him I’ll meet him downstairs in C Lab. You know, the one Avie gave up. Also,” he paused a moment, then continued, “it is very important that you not mention I’m in the building.” Elsie nodded, a look of concern and apprehension in her eyes. Marklarvich continued, “Is the Project team together?”
“I believe they are all in the main lab. Your assistant, Alain Gallipeau, is in C Lab. Shall I page him for you?”
He shook his head. “No. That’s not necessary.” He turned and retraced his footsteps down the stairwell. At the building and parking entry, he swiped his card at the check mechanism. The door snapped open. In the vestibule he swiped again as he looked up into the eye of the camera that swiveled back and forth. The second door opened. In the corridor, just beyond the second vestibule door was a large beverage dispenser. These machines were located throughout the six buildings and dispensed Jobs’ favorite drink, Fruitopia.
Lab C was located at the main corridor intersection, several doors to the right. At the door, he swiped his card a third time and, for the first time, punched in his special seven-digit code. The red button turned to a pulsating green and he pushed open the door. Alain Gallipeau was at his desk, his back to Marklarvich. He was busily typing on his computer.
“So, Alain, it was all a waste. A futile effort on your part. Our coding of the x86-compatible version of Mac OS X, updated and feature complete, was too good for you not to share it with the competition.” Gallipeau spun around. A shocked expression filled his face. It morphed into a combined look of enmity and the futility of his conspiracy.
“I’m surprise to see you, professor,” he replied regaining his composure. “When I learned you survived the blow but your memory was fragmented, I made the mistake of thinking I had more time. Too bad.”
As the professor stared into Gallipeau’s eyes, the episode two weeks earlier, when he had confronted Alain with his suspicions, two weeks before, played back in his memory like an old movie. A very bad, old movie.
“Who are you working for?”
“Really, Professor, you know there are only two possibilities.”
“Yes. The obvious and the inadequate. I’m curious which organization you would choose since neither is enamoured of the other. Is money so important to you that you would sacrifice your business ethics?”
“Don’t make me laugh, professor. That confidentiality contract I signed is bullshit. And don’t spout philosophical nonsense. The world, in general, and the business world, in particular, equates ethics with making money. I am a child of that ethos and a willing participant. As for choosing which one, that is not a decision I need to make. True to my principles, I am working for both, except for one important fact. They don’t happen to know that.”
“It will be clear enough when you are exposed.” The professor reached for the telephone. Alain moved quickly, picked up the clear aqua paperweight on the desk and brought it crashing down on the professor’s right temple. Marklarvich slumped to the floor, unconscious.
The jumble of memory fragments had now finally snapped into place. Behind him, the door from the corridor opened. It was Paul Cunningham with two backup security officers and Clare Fatherinham. She appeared tense and upset and her streaked hair looked decidedly wind-blown.
In a remarkably short time, it was over. The code had been saved but not before the existence of the Marklar project was leaked to the Internet and beyond. As was its policy on internal matters, Apple would not comment publicly on the situation. Clare summed it up nicely. “A couple of weeks ago, you promised me dinner at Le Chinisoir and, the next thing I knew, you were unconscious in the hospital. It seems to me that you owe me a dinner. I’m starved. How about you?”