Chapter 42

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"David!" He heard pounding at the front door. "David!"

It was light outside. He had driven home from Seattle the night before and didn't get in until four a.m. It was a rough night and when he got home he had collapsed on the couch. His body was contorted and stiff, and when he tried to get off the couch, his legs collapsed under the weight of his body. Pain streaked up and down his right leg in shooting blasts. He realized he must have been sleeping on it funny.

"David! Are you dead in there? I think I heard something. Should I call an ambulance? The police?"

David shouted back, "I'm here. I'm here. Hold on, Jesus Christ, I am here. Just stop yelling."

When David finally reached the door, he unbolted it and Andrew nearly fell into the apartment.

"Thank God, I thought something happened to you."

Andrew turned on the lights as he came in and stared at David's face.

"What the fuck happened to you?" said Andrew. "You look horrible! You're as white as a ghost."

"I'm just tired. I drove to Seattle and back last night."

"Don't tell me you did something stupid like sign our company away. Does System own us now? Do I need to start looking for a new job?"

David limped to the coffeemaker and started pouring water.

"Worse," said David quietly.

"What could be worse than that?"

"Doug is making a hostile takeover. He set us up like pawns and is now tearing us down. This whole thing has been a big charade. He knows we're completely out of money and is threatening to sue if we don't accept his acquisition offer."

"Sue over what? He can't win a lawsuit. We haven't done anything wrong."

"Sure, but that doesn't matter. We can't afford a lawsuit. We don't have the money to pay lawyers. But even more important...we don't have any time left. Rocketship Ventures will back out of their offer the second they hear about this. It's over. I tried to puzzle out a solution last night while driving back, but there is none. Doug obviously understands business a hundred times better than I do."

"Fuck Doug. If Frank Atari has been around the block, he already knows these kinds of tricks and won't care."

"That's what I thought too, so I set my alarm early and called Frank an hour ago. He said he totally understands the situation and feels terrible for us, but that his limited partners, the people who fund Rocketship Ventures, would sue him if he took on any potential liability."

"Fuck," said Andrew. "So he's out?"

"Yes, he's too spooked now. I probably shouldn't have called until my head cleared a bit more."

Andrew and David sat silently for a few minutes.

Finally Andrew broke the silence. "So, what's the acquisition offer?"

"Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

Again, silence.

"I guess that's a lot more money than we have now, right?"

"Take out half for taxes, then divide it between the two of us and spread it out over four years. It works out to about dollars a year."

"We won't get rich off of it, but that's a new car, right?"

"I can't work for Doug after what he's done. There isn't enough money in the world he could pay me to work for him. We're in a pickle, but it doesn't mean we have to forfeit."

"Am I missing something?" asked Andrew. "It sounds like giving up is exactly what this means. It's starting to sound a lot like a checkmate to me."

"We have one move left. There might be a way out of this. It's a long shot and morally questionable and I don't know if we can pull it off, but I've been saving it for a rainy day."

Andrew looked out the window and chuckled as rain poured down the window. David pulled out a crinkled business card from his left jean pocket.

"I never thought I would need to do this."

He threw the balled-up card to Andrew, who began to unravel it.

"What is this?"

"Just shut up and hand me my phone, it's on the desk."

Andrew tossed the phone to David, who started typing in the number from the card. The phone rang five times before anyone picked up.

"Hello," said David cautiously. Then a pause. "It's David. David Alexan—"

David listened intently for a minute without saying a word. He then put down the phone and stared blankly out the window.

"What happened?" asked Andrew. "Who were you calling?"

"The Secret Service."

"Are you crazy? But you didn't say anything. What happened?"

"They just landed in Portland. He told me to stay put and they would be here in thirty. Hand me my computer and get me the biggest coffee you can find. I need to do something before they get here."

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