Mortale’s Challenge – The Invitation.
You push open the brass-handled door to your apartment building; the familiar welcoming comfort and faint floral aroma of the entrance lobby helping to soothe your anxious mind. The beautiful Victorian facade and elegant lobby were what initially tempted you into buying your apartment. This beautiful building now represents a haven of calm in your troubled life, a place where you can retreat and shut the door against your worries.
You stride across the well-maintained parquet floor towards the double staircase. It has been a difficult few months for you and today’s events have made it even worse. As a leading cryptologist, your services had always been very much in demand. Until now. The rapid growth of the internet at the start of the millennium meant that protecting data and moving it in a safe way became of paramount consideration for anyone doing business online. It was a great time to be an expert in cryptology. You, and the company you founded, specialised in producing encryption algorithms which not only protected data but also allowed it to be transferred securely. The explosion of the internet meant the demand for your skills had increased hugely. Your business grew rapidly and you became the marketable face of encryption.
But your sudden meteoric rise was soon to come plummeting down. A series of unfortunate, high-profile events involving the loss of data encrypted with your programs resulted in businesses moving away from you, to be snapped up hungrily by your gleeful competitors. If you had been of a paranoid disposition you could believe that some of those unfortunate events were not as random as they first appeared. The result was that demand for your skills had started to dry up – putting pressure on your company’s cash flow and pushing you to the brink of bankruptcy.
However, the final nail in the coffin came today when a major research partner announced that they would be removing their grant funding from you, leaving your company in a very sticky financial position. You can’t quite believe their short-sighted move – coming as it does at such a critical point in the project. You know that you were within inches of a major advance in encryption technology that would stop hackers in their tracks. The benefits to society in combatting cyber-crime would be immense. Now, however, with the funding removed, the research would stop. Without a quick solution to your financial problems, your business will collapse.
You are not worried for yourself; you know that you can start again. You have a number of teaching positions at some leading Universities and consultancy has always paid well, even with a slightly tarnished reputation. Your concerns are for those who work for you. They have worked alongside you and have built the company from humble beginnings. They have stood by you through the good times and even through these recent difficulties. But if this last-ditch attempt at success fails then they will all lose their jobs. This is what gives you a heavy heart. As you walk up the stairs to your apartment, you rack your brains as to how the situation can be turned around. A solution does not present itself.
You fumble in your bag for the keys to your front door. As you find them and go to open the door you notice an envelope sticking out of your letter box. You open the door and pull the envelope through, the letter box snapping shut loudly behind it. The letter has obviously been hand-delivered. There is no address on the envelope, just your name, hand-written on the front. The envelope, made from thick parchment paper, is embossed with a coat of arms. The crossed keys on a shield are familiar to you but you can’t remember why. But what is clear is that whoever has sent this letter is prepared to pay for quality. You open the envelope and pull out what seems to be an invitation. Turning it over you read what it says:
Your heart skips a beat as you read the name. Ian Mortale – the secretive IT entrepreneur who made his fortune in encryption. The stark contrasts between yourself and Mortale are readily apparent. Where your star has faded his has shone ever more brightly. You approached encryption as an intellectual, almost noble, pursuit, but for Mortale it was a license to print money. His skill was in creating clever encryption algorithms and selling them onto the highest bidder; yours was to use encryption for the greater good of society. Sadly, your honourable approach has not created the riches enjoyed by Mortale.
But you are aware that, despite his wealth and connections, very little is actually known about the man other than his much-vaunted successes. From dominating the field of encryption he has branched out into data manipulation and artificial intelligence. By using AI to interpret big data sets he was able to provide incredibly useful insights to any company willing to pay for the privilege. It was this unique service that was to push Mortale into the big league of the super-rich. No longer would he have to bang on doors, like everyone else, to get his voice heard. They now opened for him, and at the highest levels. There were, for example, rumours that Mortale’s influence could be seen in the shock vote for the UK to leave the European Union.
All this leads to the question – why would Mortale be contacting you now? Surely a connection with you is not going to be of any benefit to him? This invitation just doesn’t make sense.
You are however, intrigued by the idea of a challenge and the possibilities of how a meeting might be of benefit to you. Interestingly, there is no address on the invitation. So how can you accept or reject Mortale’s offer? You realise that Mortale will not countenance rejection and simply expects you to attend. Will you? Do you decide to accept the invitation and discover Mortale’s Challenge?