Viral Marketing

Prologue

Dark Alley in Augusta

“Take me around the block.  I want a view from behind the house.”  The black saloon pulled gently away from the kerb.  It rounded the block, turning into an alleyway out back that ran straight past their mark’s place of residence.  It was an old style access lane, thoughtfully provided at one time to allow residents easy access to the back of their properties.  No developer in their right mind would build one these days, not when that land could be directly sold to buyers instead.

Sebastian smiled at the irony of the situation.  As a graciously provided gift, the alleyway now doubled as the perfect vantage point for him to begin a marketing revolution unlike anything in history.  A revolution that would make him rich.

“This good enough for you, boss?”, the driver asked.  The tone of the question irked him.  There was no respect in it, well not enough respect anyway.  This kid was just like all those other consumers out there.  There was no creativity in their consumption, no discernment.  They bought what was on offer and competed amongst themselves to see who could grab the most of whatever companies could convince them was cool.  Well if that was the game, he was going to play to win.  After all, it might as well be his junk that they were spending their money on.

“Er, boss?”, the kid asked again.

“See if you can pull off the road a bit more.  Beside that dumpster probably.”

Glancing up and down the street, he could see that the alley was empty.  The houses were all dark except one, but it always paid to be careful.  It would be difficult for anyone to prove foul play, the bio-chemists assured him of that.  He did need to keep it a secret however, at least for now until he’d proven its potential and sewn up the deals.  If he cracked it, no-one would have a chance of competing in business again without his product, and that was a powerful weapon to wield indeed.

The street’s solitary window of light flickered as a man walked past the window.  He had an extremely short haircut, probably self-shaved using a low cost pair of clippers.  A shirt that would have looked worn out in the 70s was on his back and his glasses could just be seen under the sticky tape that was holding them together.  It drew Sebastian’s attention.  His pulse quickened.  This was it.

According to his research, this man was the tightest man in Britain – Martyn Brynn.  The reason he was up now was because electricity was cheapest.  No point in using the more expensive rate earlier in the night when you could sleep first and get up later to do what you needed.  In fact if he could get away with it, Martyn wouldn’t even turn on the lights at all.  Tonight he was probably spending time scouring the newspapers he’d pulled out of bins yesterday to find any sales coupons on offer.

The research team had been good.  They’d even managed to find out that Martyn was down to his last month’s supply of toilet paper.  If he didn’t find a source on sale soon, he may well need to break his self-imposed rule and buy at something higher than 25% of the normal asking price.  That was the limit, 25%.  There had to be a limit or otherwise where would it end?  Martyn had broken out in sweat just thinking about the waste of money and resolved that if it came to it, he would find some other solution.  Leaves or something, anything.  He just couldn’t waste money like that.

Sebastian shook his head slowly as he re-read the report.  “Un-be-lievable”, he muttered to himself.  Hell it didn’t matter if this guy wasn’t the tightest man in Britain, he was already beyond Sebastian’s wildest dreams.  If the product worked on him, it would work on anyone.

“Wait here”, he said to his driver.

Getting out of his car, he checked his gloves.  They were the most covert part of his clothing.  He’d decided against wearing the cliché trench-coat and dark clothing, opting instead for a casual shirt and jeans.  Strolling across the road, he took care not to make fast movements.  They would just draw attention if there was anyone who happened to be looking out their window.  It wasn’t like he could be invisible, the best he could hope for was that they were all asleep.  Failing that, he needed to appear quite forgettable.  A friend dropping by for a chat.  “After midnight?”, he asked himself plenty of times while planning.  Well … no plan could be perfect and besides, any friends of this nutjob would know about his crazy sleeping habits and probably need to fit in with them.

As he walked up the stairs he slipped his hand into his right pocket and pulled out an envelope.  It was simple.  It was innocuous.  And most importantly, it wasn’t posted.  Whoever it had been that had posted anthrax all over the US a few years ago had really done the field of covert virus distribution a disservice.  “I mean come on”, he thought to himself, “it’s not like that was going to stay a secret for very long.  You don’t post something that kills quickly, it’s just too easy to connect back to the source.  Now every post-office in the western world is on guard against it.”

He paused at the top step to take one last look at the envelope.  This was the turning point, he could feel it.  Right here, right now the world changes forever.  A slight smile creased his mouth as he leant down and flicked the envelope under the door.  Then turning, he strolled casually back to the car and they pulled gently away again into the night.

The light in the window flickered again gently as Martyn noticed the white square sitting on the floor behind the door.  Bending down to investigate, he grabbed the envelope tearing it open as he rose.  A fine powder, almost unnoticeable, drifted up into his nostrils and with that gentle action the world was changed.  In a street of sleeping suburbanites, there was no-one else there to witness it.

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