Trial By Fire
The Silicon War Triology
Chapter 2 - Paranoia
I was still pissed by what just happened but it was after my coffee stop at McDonalds that my paranoia was finally triggered. I kept looking in the rear view mirror. If I made a lane change, this off-white car made the same lane change.
"Shit" I said to myself. The last thing anyone wants proven to themselves is that their paranoia is valid. "Damn it, so you bastards want to play"?
See, I was already pissed because of the reporter, but now I was really pissed, because I just spilled my coffee.
The game started as I was heading north on Laurence Expressway just as I was approaching the overpass of I-280. This is where I made a lane change from the center lane to the off ramp for Stevens Creek Blvd. What made this perfect was in the early morning light, the shadows from the 280 freeway overpass hid my actions as I went from the bright morning light to the shadows of the over pass.
When I did this, there was no traffic to my right side but the off-white car behind me wasn't so lucky. He was using the traffic to hide in and when it dawned on him that I had taken the off ramp to the side road, he had to cut off other cars around him. I could see in the rear view mirror that he left cars swerving, breaking, and honking.
So with a left turn on yellow onto Stevens Creek Blvd, I accelerated west. Even with the signal now being red, the off-white car ran the red light to follow me.
For those of you that don't know this area very well. Lawrence Expressway is a 3 lane north and 3 lane south expressway that allows traffic to get to the 55 mph speed. Stevens Creek Blvd is just a 2-lane east and 2-lane west-bound boulevard with stops light but will allow traffic to hit 35 mph if lucky. However on this particular spot on Stevens Creek, I was doing more than 45 mph. I went under the 280 overpass, thru the off ramp's traffic light. Passed the light at Finch Avenue, and finally made a high-speed left turn on Miller Avenue heading south. And yea… that damn off white car was still following.
Where the north side of Stevens Creek was industrial and shopping centers, the south side was more homes with the occasional duplex. After about ½ mile, I made a left turn on Atherwood Ave that took me into a residential neighborhood. It wound south and changed into Alderbrook Lane. Just as I made the turn, I parked the car, quickly got out and jogged south looking for a place to duck into to see who was following me.
Since my luck was running high at this time, remember I didn't get a red light, I found the perfect spot. To my right was Alderbrook Way that was a dead end cul-de-sac. As I walked passed it, I stepped behind this big tree trunk and waited.
And here they came. They were driving very slow trying to locate me and just as they approached Alderbrook Way, I stepped out and headed back toward them.
Yep, you guessed it; they turned right on Alderbrook Way or should I say "Oops, dead end dudes".
Now, it is one thing to keep this game unofficial and not personnel. Right! Not me, I just had to walk toward the parked car that had just pulled into someone's driveway. It was the house on the right side or 2 o'clock of the circle.
First, I walked down the south side or opposite sidewalk to the end, then around the circle's sidewalk. The tallest person, the driver had gotten out of the car and walked up to this house. The other person was just sitting there in the car. As I walked by, I patted the nose of their car just to let them know that I made them and walked on.
Now, it is one thing to think you are paranoid and it's another thing to prove it. This however was more, sitting in the parked car reading the damn newspaper was John O'Laughlin, Intel Security. And… standing at the front door of this house was Officer McKinner, the driver.
What I stumbled on was the fact that I was under investigation by the Santa Clara Police Department and backed up by Intel Security. This was no longer paranoia, it was fact!
At 7:23 am, September 28, 1978, I was labeled a "bad guy".
As I walked back to my car, reality of the unfolding events finally sank in. There were so many questions that I now had to figure out including the most important one: "What the hell had I done"?
As I drove past Alderbrook Way, they were gone. Since I had no idea where I was or what I was doing, I made a right turn on the first main street I hit. It turned out that I was on Bollinger Rd heading west and as I hit S'De Anza Blvd, I hit my first red light. For no apparent reason, I just started laughing, during this whole stupid episode; I didn't hit one red light, and the first one I hit afterwards, turned red.
I drove north thinking about what had just happened and started to wonder what Gopal and Asumi were going thru. Since this damn thing exploded 24 hours ago, I guess it was time to check in with everyone. My first stop was going to be Silicon Systems International (aka SSI), Gopal's company.
It was 7:40 am when I pulled up to Gopal's office and parked. Gopal's Porsche was parked in front of the building but there were no other cars anywhere. As I tried to open the front door, it was locked. However Gopal saw me and let me in.
He looked like shit. It has to be said, the long trips, the arrest and now no sleep, had taken its toll. The bags under his eyes were now sever.
Gopal then showed me a note that said "Quiet, we're bugged" and then to my surprise, he pulled out a bug detector and swept me. I don't think I have ever been so insulted. He now didn't trust me. But then… it's better to be safe than sorry.
He motioned for me to follow him and we walked back into the engineering lab area where there was a set of high-end jamming gear activated. He had moved a table in there and had two tablet of paper on it.
He motioned for me to sit. As I watched him take a sheet of paper off the tablet, he wrote out "Are you ok and do you want some coffee"? It just amazed me that he was living in hell and was still courteous. Boy, his mother raised him well.
The first real question from him was:
"Who have you talked to today"?
I answered (wrote):
"No one but a reporter. Was followed by SCPD earlier. I had fun with them and ditched them".
"Don't play with these people" he scolded. "This is not a game. They want your ass for what you did. Your notes and the sign in log alone really pissed them off".
"Do you know who is monitoring us"?
"They said yesterday that you have been under investigation for 2 months. I asked if there was any Federal involvement. They stated none. Therefore, it will be SCPD or Intel first, then NSC maybe, but don't think so, and Ziblog was here heavy. They might be the real problem".
"Talk to Conroy"?
"What about Brachonitz"?
"No. Did talk with his security consultant. No name"
"Did you tell them about Yamado"?
"No, but they know about him".
"Have you seen Stephanie"?
"No. Where is she"?
"Unknown? Will you look for her"?
"Ok. I guess is should go to work now".
"Asumi wants to see you first. You will be let go today. He can't have you around now. His attorney says to break all ties with you".
"Just great. Where is everybody here"?
"I had to lay them off. I have close SSI".
"What about the projects"?
"On hold for now. Don't give them anything else? I'll do it when the dust settles. Hide everything… hide the Maruman contracts because they will hang us all".
He then handed me a small paperback book about ‘encrypted code techniques' that described the different methods of encrypting a message. He wrote down a number and showed me the page that described the cipher I was to use.
Just great, two amateurs were now being forced to become pros.
Then it dawned on me and I asked him to follow me into the lobby to show him the SSI security line printer.
"Who is code 5564" I said as I pointed it out on the line printer paper?
"Stephanie" he answered.
"This says she logged in after you two left dinner the other night"?
"At 12:30 that morning, we were in bed. This must be a mistake".
"Then, there must be someone else using it"?
As I ran out of space on the sheet of paper, he took the sheet from me, ran it thru a shredder, and then burned the pieces. Maybe this was dramatic but under the circumstances, a little paranoia was healthy.
Finally, I had to ask him "What is it that they busted you for"?
"Theft of Trade Secrets. I said that the 2114 was Intel's not Maruman's and they busted me for it".
"What? That doesn't make sense. That was legal. Kim and I did that from scratch".
"Doesn't matter, there will be more charges I'm sure. Just watch your ass".
"I need to talk with my attorney now. Here is his card. Good guy, you can tell him the truth". With that, all papers were picked up, shredded as before and again, poof. Burned.
After another failed call south to talk with Diersbach, I left another message, and head to work.
The walk thru the Maruman lobby was the longest walk of my life. There was no "hi's" or "good morning Jim" as usual. There were just the "walk-aways," as in if anyone saw me, they turned around, and walked away.
It was 8:15 in the morning when I walked toward Asumi's office. But when I got to Asumi's office, I got the formal ‘please sit and wait' from a very cold admin. Six minutes later, Maruman's general counsel walked up and I was finally allowed to enter Asumi's office. Oh had 24 hours changed everything.
"Hi, I was told to see you first thing" I said to Dan Asumi, President of Maruman Semiconductor.
Instead of Asumi speaking, Maruman's counsel said "Yes. That's correct, Bob. With the issue with Gopal and SSI, we feel that there is now a serious conflict of interest here and we must let you go. Here is your final pay thru today. We will expect you to keep everything in confidence, but as an attorney, I suggest that you get an attorney as soon as you can. You may pick up your belongings in the lobby later today".
I was going to ask Asumi about the SSI/Maruman contracts but since he didn't bring them up, I assumed he had not discussed this with the Maruman counsel. His orders when this all started was well understood by me: Remember "or just walk away!"
And Dan's eyes said it all…
Therefore my parting words were "Sir, yes sir".
On Thursday, September 28, 1978 – 0823 hours PST or 25 hours after the SSI raid, I was fired from Maruman.
Reason: "For cause".