Tokugen Numataka stood in his plush, penthouse office and gazed out at the Tokyo skyline. His employees and competitors knew him a sakuta same‑the deadly shark. For three decade she’d outguessed, outbid, and out advertised all the Japanese competition; now he was on the brink of becoming a giant in the world market as well.
He was about to close the biggest deal of his life‑a deal that would make his Numatech Corp. the Microsoft of the future. His blood was alive with the cool rush of adrenaline. Business was war‑and war was exciting.
Although Tokugen Numataka had been suspicious when the call had come three days ago, he now knew the truth. He was blessed with myouri‑good fortune. The gods had chosen him.
* * *
“I have a copy of the Digital Fortress pass‑key,” the American accent had said. “Would you like to buy it?”
Numataka had almost laughed aloud. He knew it was a ploy. Numatech Corp. had bid generously for Ensei Tankado’s new algorithm, and now one of Numatech’s competitors was playing games, trying to find out the amount of the bid.
“You have the pass‑key?” Numataka feigned interest.
“I do. My name is North Dakota.”
Numataka stifled a laugh. Everyone knew about North Dakota. Tankado had told the press about his secret partner. It had been a wise move on Tankado’s part to have a partner; even in Japan, business practices had become dishonorable. Ensei Tankado was not safe. But one false move by an overeager firm, and the pass‑key would be published; every software firm on the market would suffer.
Numataka took a long pull on his Umami cigar and played along with the caller’s pathetic charade. “So you’re selling your pass‑key? Interesting. How does Ensei Tankado feel about this?”
“I have no allegiance to Mr. Tankado. Mr. Tankado was foolish to trust me. The pass‑key is worth hundreds of times what he is paying me to handle it for him.”
“I’m sorry,” Numataka said. “Your pass‑key alone is worth nothing to me. When Tankado finds out what you’ve done, he will simply publish his copy, and the market will be flooded.”
“You will receive both pass‑keys,” the voice said. “Mr. Tankado’s and mine.”
Numataka covered the receiver and laughed aloud. He couldn’t help asking. “How much are you asking for both keys?”
“Twenty million U.S. dollars.”
Twenty million was almost exactly what Numataka had bid. “Twenty million?” He gasped in mock horror. “That’s outrageous!”
“I’ve seen the algorithm. I assure you it’s well worth it.”
No shit, thought Numataka. It’s worth ten times that. “Unfortunately,” he said, tiring of the game, “we both know Mr. Tankado would never stand for this. Think of the legal repercussions.”
The caller paused ominously. “What if Mr. Tankado were no longer a factor?”
Numataka wanted to laugh, but he noted an odd determination in the voice. “If Tankado were no longer a factor?” Numataka considered it. “Then you and I would have a deal.”
“I’ll be in touch,” the voice said. The line went dead.