Home > LAUREN (Silicon Valley Billionaires #1)

LAUREN (Silicon Valley Billionaires #1)
Author: Leigh James

Chapter 1



The day began as both ordinary and extraordinary. The sun shined through the windows of my office as I assembled my lab kit—special gloves, laptop and notes. All of it would have to be decontaminated before I entered the lab, but that was part of my daily ritual. The California sunshine and the fact that I had work to do were normal, but to me, that didn’t make them any less remarkable. I brushed my long blonde hair until it hung neatly over my shoulders, and smoothed my black sweater under my lab coat, preparing myself. Today would be the day my prototype finally worked.

I hoped.

Nodding at Stephanie, my assistant, I headed briskly to the lab. We were running another test that day. Hopefully, this would be the test that proved my invention could do what the world so desperately needed it to do.

But there were one thousand, two hundred failed tests before it.

I went through the doors to the enclosed space, where I would be sprayed down with decontaminants to ensure the sterility of the lab. Everyone who worked at Paragon Laboratories entered through this space. The entrance was similar to the tube travelers walked through at airport security, where they were asked to put their arms over their heads to be scanned. At Paragon, people put their arms over their heads and were sprayed with an odorless sanitizer, ensuring no fibers or bacteria from the outside world invaded our precious testing ground.

My lab workers greeted me as I entered. At eight in the morning, most of them had already been here for hours. They were running preliminary tests, assembling data, and generating the reports necessary to keep our investors and the FDA apprised of our research.

At the end of the day, I would review all the new material, compile it, then have it electronically locked on my laptop so no one could access it without my direct permission. I always made sure our technology, valued at eight billion dollars, stayed secret. But the dollar amount associated with my invention didn’t interest me, even though I owned the majority stake in Paragon. My invention was my life’s work, my life’s mission, and its ability to help people was the only thing that mattered to me.

I headed directly toward Eva, our head researcher, deep V forming between her eyebrows as she read the data on her computer.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She looked up, startled. “Nothing. Sheesh, Lauren, you scared me.”

I looked past her to her screen, searching for signs of trouble. “Why are you frowning like that?”

“Because my eyes are tired, and I’m scrunching up my face to compensate, okay? Nothing’s wrong. We haven’t run the test yet. We set everything up. We’re just waiting for you.” Her face relaxed into a smile. “Are you excited?”

I shrugged. “I think I’m more anxious than excited.”

“It’s going to go well. All the signs have been pointing to this.”

We’d run thousands of tests on our prototype, a patch that would scan cells in the human body for signs of disruption, doing the work of a CAT scan and other expensive tests for a fraction of the price, in a fraction of the time.

A thousand tests on our prototype, and not one had worked. Not yet.

Still, every one of those failures had brought me closer to success. Our most recent round of trials had come close. Since then, we’d been working around the clock to update the prototype. I knew what didn’t work, and I was so close to finding what did.

So close, I could taste it.

Eva tucked one of her curls behind her ear and looked at me expectantly. “Are you ready?”

I nodded. “Let’s begin.” I licked my lips nervously, then set up my own computer. I had a private one, separate from the network, on which I kept my own calculations and observations, as well as the most up-to-date configurations of the patch. I maintained this information off the grid to protect it from internal and external hacking threats.

My sister, who knew me better than anyone, said I did it because I was a paranoid control freak. She wasn’t wrong.

I grabbed a small headset off the table and turned on the microphone. “Finn, go ahead.” My directions were piped into a sealed room where the prototype would be tested. The room was adjacent to ours and visible from the lab.

Finn, one of my long-time lab workers, gave me the thumbs-up. He put his gloves on, hit a button on the wall, then a door automatically opened. Test Subject 1,201 entered the room, wearing a johnny. Finn had the man sit down, then assembled the various wires and suction cups on him that would monitor his breathing, heart rate, and stress levels. The test subject sat patiently as Finn arranged the myriad devices.

Finally, Finn seemed satisfied and turned toward us, waiting for instruction.

“Go ahead,” I ordered.

I held my breath as he picked up the patch, removed the backing, and gently placed it on the test subject. Screens lit up above the testing room, ready to display the information from the patch to the rest of us.

“Are all his signs normal?” I asked Eva as data from the monitoring equipment scrolled down her screen.

“He’s perfect. Everything is steady. Nothing should interrupt the output of information.”

I watched the screens above the test room. Finn sat, calmly monitoring the report on his computer. Eva continued to watch her screen. Test Subject 1,201 sat back with his eyes closed. He didn't know the specifics of the trial, but he knew we were testing a medical diagnostic device. Per my legal team's protocols, he’d signed a ten-page nondisclosure and confidentiality agreement. Still, he looked relaxed, probably happy to earn an easy thousand dollars for his participation.

I wished I could relax. Instead, I stared at the monitors and waited. A full minute passed. I grimaced, hating the feeling of disappointment forming in my stomach—a feeling I knew all too well.

It’s just another problem you need to eliminate. I tried to soothe myself as the seconds ticked by. If it doesn’t work this time, it’s still something you can fix. You’re so close.

The monitors flickered and came to life. Data suddenly started streaming—the data I’d been waiting for.

“Oh my God.” Eva moved to stand beside me. “It’s working.”

The patch read the test subject’s cells. Any red flags would be highlighted. Once I perfected the reports to weed out imperfect but harmless mutations, I would be able to tell whether this man had cancer, pre-cancer, or any other number of diseases.

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