A stunning numbness swept through Jacob's core. Oberhall had recorded them? For how long and what else might he have seen or heard? Jacob wanted to curse and swear, rant and rave at the injustice of their violation, but his senses were too thrown. The iDesk? Really? Oberhall had been so desirous of blackmail material that he dug up that old trick? Jacob knew all too well the pranks kids could play upon one another until they got implants of their own, but by adulthood such shenanigans were usually forgotten, swept away by the immersion into the connected reality of the chips. To fall for such a simple gag made Jacob not only feel violated. It also made him feel like an idiot.
The rest of the news wasn't bode poorly for them as well. If it had been academics, he could have talked his way out of trouble. Military? Jacob could bargain. But actually legal proceedings were another matter altogether. He could well be barred from practice, his licenses revoked, face stiff penalties and fines, and even jail time. If things went to the their worst, he could even be subject for behavioral reprogramming. Granted he wouldn't be subjected to a complete mind wipe, he was not some serial killer. Still, if Oberhall had a hand in all of this it would be a hand full of aces. Jacob did not relish the idea of having to re-learn how to talk.
With Prudence sobbing in his arms, he gritted his teeth with a tightly clenched jaw. "He doesn't hate you, Prudence. He just doesn't care, which in my opinion is worse. To him, you're little different from a Neanderthal, not truly human. And he hates me because..."
He took a breath. He really didn't want to go into this. There were some things he was not proud of, though he himself was blameless. Still, his love asked for their nemesis' reasons and denying her was not an option.
"He hates me because he feels he should have taken the lead on this project after Oberhall's death. And he hates me because I was McNaulty's assistant, and the two of them never got along. And he hates me... because it was his formula that was the basis for the bio-agent that McNaulty and I developed." It was like a flood, the fear of thinking him a thief surging with the relief of admitting the cause of their vexations. "Because he fears it will be McNaulty name, my name and now Yu's name that history will remember if the project succeeds... and not his."
"We didn't steal or copy his work," he hastily explained, "But his theories were the building blocks we started with. It was easier than going back and redoing it all from scratch, and all the reviews did mention how his work contributed to our own. He never saw it that way, thought he should have been compensated for his work and there were many who agreed with him. It didn't seem to matter that the research facility he was with had already paid him, he wanted more from us! The argument went on for a few years and almost went to court; instead McNaulty offered him a position on the team so he might oversee 'his' creation, a plea deal if you will so that everyone would settle down and get back to work."