John Bell


When entrepreneur ALEX BRIGHTON is faced with the failure of his high-tech startup, there’s more on the line than just his pride. Driven to succeed at any cost, and unable to secure funding from legitimate investors, he’s gone out on a limb and borrowed his seed capital from a Yakuza loan shark, MR. OYAMA. But the follow-up investment that would have paid off Mr. Oyama hasn’t materialized, and Alex is on the hook for it.

But Mr. Oyama is a businessman, and realizes that taking Alex’s life won’t get him his money back. But taking Alex’s pinkie, for starters, just might. For Mr. Oyama sees in Alex a kindred spirit who has the potential to pull off a major scam.

In the frenzy of the nineties high-tech boom, venture capital flowed freely, and all too often down the drain. But what if the proposition were designed that way, to drain money from investors’ pockets, into those of the entrepreneur’s? All it would take is an apparent technology that’s compelling—and convincing—enough to make investors get out their checkbooks.

Venture capitalist WADE KELLER is more than ready, having missed out on the early networking startups. He’d rather be too aggressive than too conservative, and he’s the kind of mark Alex needs to make his play.

But Alex can’t do it alone. Nor will he have to—having implicated his partner, BLAZE, in the bad loan, he has an automatic, if initially disgruntled, ally. And his girlfriend DENA holds the surprising key to the masquerade. But, despite the danger to Alex, it’ll take some convincing to get her involved.

A demo of their hot technology has Wade itching to buy in. But there’s a catch—a huge company, Acropolex, wants to partner with Wade’s firm on the deal. And they require testing and validation by an independent third party, VeriLabs. Which is run by Alex’s old boss, SANDY, who fired Alex for lying to a customer.

Alex’s ingenuity rises to the occasion, even after he learns that the unit will be completely isolated during testing. But the obstacles aren’t just technical—because Alex isn’t the only one bidding for the Acropolex deal. Nor is he the only one willing to bend the rules to get it.

GORDON STOKES, the CEO of a competing company, has engaged in a little corporate espionage through his operative ELLIS PEARSON, an employee at Wade’s firm. But Ellis’ most useful service is through his own operative at VeriLab’s, QUINN, who will be doing the testing.

Tasked to fail their technology during testing, and steal it if possible, Quinn makes an entrepreneurial move of his own when he discovers the scam. Rather than expose them, he tries to take control of the game.

All the while, Mr. Oyama has been assisting Alex from behind the scenes. But Alex’s fate, and the fate of his partners, won’t come down to finding yet another inspired move in the game. He’ll have to make the kind of choice that shows whether he’s become more than just an accomplished scammer.

Copyright 2005 John Bell
All Rights Reserved