Here is the second of three extracts from Dust to Dust, this time from Chapter Three. The main focus of Chapter Three is to learn a little more about how Dust came to be and the nature of their main rival, Ordi.
At that moment Hadi joined them. He had come in without any of them noticing, holding a glass of lemonade. “Congratulations, everybody,” said the new arrival, raising his glass. “To Dust, and to all our successes for the future.” Everyone echoed his sentiments and drank. A moment later Hadi realised the rest of the team’s eyes were still on him. His English was prone to falter when he felt at the centre of attention. He scratched at the scar on his arm. It was a ring of circular marks. “It has also been a month or so since Laura joined us,” said Hadi. He gestured to Laura, sitting at his right, and she blushed. “In that time our app looks much better than it did before. I almost wasn’t going to speak at the talk. Rajiya was ill that day. But I had already promised to be there, so I went. I gave my usual speech about Dust. Afterwards this young woman came up to talk about it.” Laura’s cheeks turned redder. “She asked whether there was anything she could do. She could code and did some design work as well, she told me. I said we already had three developers, but that none of us were much good with design. I told her to send me her some examples of what she could do, and we are a better team for it.” He took a sip of his lemonade. “It should not need saying; but I am very proud of you all,” he continued. “My recruitment techniques are unusual, I am sure, but I would not change either one of you.” He paused again. “We all know where we are with Dust. But we must not forget why we are together, here. I started Dust because of the apps that were already on the market. There was Toko with its terrible security.”
“I remember the Topocalypse,” said Jacob casually. “My ex-girlfriend was one of the people whose photos and chat histories were leaked.”
“While you were going out with her?” asked Melissa.
Jacob smiled wryly and shook his head. Without realising it he had come uncomfortably close to a personal experience of Dan’s. Toko used to be the messaging app of choice in Britain. At its peak it had more than nine million users. Dan and his friends used it to use it at university to meet up, keep in touch on holiday and to distract each other in dull lectures. By the time he graduated in 2012 it was a fixture of the life of young people in Britain. That changed one evening when the chat histories of eighty million users worldwide were leaked online without warning. The hackers uploaded the files to a website with a search function to find your friends, enemies and lovers. American law enforcement closed it down swiftly, but not before a dozen imitations had sprung up elsewhere. Dan vividly remembered searching for himself in a panic. He frantically scanned the chat histories that featured the name of Dan Wallace. He was there, among some of his namesakes, but he could find nothing embarrassing or incriminating. The following day, he received a call from his sister. Sarah was distraught. He could barely make out her words as she sobbed that revealing photos and chat messages were up on the copycat websites from a previous relationship. He did not want to pry into his sister’s personal life but from what she was telling him he understood that she was still in touch with a former boyfriend while seeing someone else. By the time he saw his sister some weeks later she had straightened things out with her boyfriend. But that could not undo the hurt she felt at seeing some of her most intimate thoughts and expressions available for anyone to browse at their leisure. His sister was shy, and like him, had passed through school unsure of how to handle what little attention she received from the opposite sex. Sarah and Callum were now married and living in a village in Scotland. Friends described their marriage as idyllic and a fairytale. To him it felt rushed, as though his sister was so grateful that Callum did not leave her that she committed herself to him prematurely. Had her privacy not been violated, he was sure, she would have taken things more slowly.
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