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Though Julia did, in fact, love California. Imagine if they’d sent her to one of those other states—and she knew the SPB occasionally did do this, seeding assets to small politicians, hoping they might one day become big ones. What would she be doing then? Attending the openings of car dealerships, frying chicken nuggets, falling asleep in church. Shopping on the weekends for wooden plaques to hang on her wall: The Conner Family, Est. 2011!
The wedding planner was back in the room. “Are you excited?” Libby Rosenberg was one of those competent former sorority girls Julia liked to hire into marketing. Though Libby had been clipping between the gardens in a full suit, her makeup was still perfectly matte. “I’m getting excited.”
“You eat? You should have something in your stomach before you go out. Michael, why doesn’t Julia have a plate? It’s her food, you know.”
She’s right, Julia thought. It is my food. I’m the one paying for it. And then she returned to the window, to enjoy the view a while longer. Of course, Julia wasn’t foolish enough to believe she’d achieved everything on her own merit. There was help, especially in the beginning. Arriving at her depressive studio in San Carlos, initially stunned by the strip malls and sheer ugliness of the place, only to visit Stanford University days later and fall in love, because here—amid the Romanesque architecture and towering palms and lopsided wealth—was the California of her dreams. A PhD candidate in electrical engineering, she’d been set up with Kurt Marshall, described by Leo as a “friendly” professor, who proceeded to match her with another “accommodating” company, at which the ancient Marshall was paid a quarter million a year as an advisor. The company sponsored her visa, no one in Immigration Services curious why a small business repackaging USB keys was navigating the hurdles of an H1-B for an analyst; she’d worked there a year before Leo returned to California and presented her with a laptop. “Now you go fundraise.”
She stroked the machine, chunky and metallic. “What is it?” “Facial recognition software. I assume you still recall enough of your studies to give a convincing demo. I made up the working name, VisionMatch, but change it if you like. It’s your company.”
She disliked the name but sensed he was proud of his creative output. “Face recognition?”
“Properly deployed, it can match each face in a crowd of thou- sands in seconds. Such technology has also been on the SPB’s wish list. So why not multitask?” He laughed.
He named an American technology giant, the sort that spon- sored stadiums.