Prologue, months earlier – When time runs out …
Her watchful eyes followed the rapid movements across the bright flickering monitor as each piece of the puzzle moved to its assigned location. Her subdued smile increased as each piece was transmitted. She knew that Q on the other side would have them captured and reassembled seconds after they arrived at their destination. This was the last of the updates for the communications interceptor routines.
She always kept her word and honored her family responsibilities. Complex communications were her specialty, and her adaptations kept the family business ahead of the world governments. Even her day job of creating programs with the U.S. telecommunications leader was not at this level due to the bureaucracy they operated under. Over the years she had tried to enlighten them, but it was a slow road of acceptance for them. This was her part-time outlet of creativity which helped her maintain balance.
Pulling her eyes away, she returned to her primary work screen, verifying that the recompiling of those programs was almost finished. The documentation for her departmental changes was already completed, with updates to her team members also issued. Her ability to compartmentalize the two efforts, both for good causes, spoke to her genius. She was slightly distracted by the vibration of her cell phone which she retrieved from her pocket with the same efficient fluid motion.
“Hello, Julianne here.”
“English please, Father. Good evening to you too.”
“Of course, make it harder for me. Q is telling me you are sending the final versions as we speak.”
“Yes, they are finished, Father. I need to focus on an upcoming project for my work over the next few months, so requests need to go elsewhere.”
“Why not quit that job and come home. I would like to spend some time with you as well as get to know your son. How is he doing with his studies? Is he ready for our family now?”
“He is doing well and working hard. He is far more brilliant that any of us. But he knows nothing of the family business as I’ve repeatedly told you. Not yet. I want him to have a chance to make his choices rather than the family. My son, my choice. You promised me, Father, and you have never broken a promise to me.”
“Yes, you’re right. We continue to watch out for you and him, but I want to know him before I die.”
“You will next year. I will bring him over, and we will explain things to him together. Just as we agreed. You will be so proud of him. I have only taught him to be the best, to be cautious, and to trust little in a world of bits and bytes. Keep in mind he may choose not to be a part of the business. He is his own man.”
“Speaking of careful, have you heard any more from the Sergei character, or has he finally stopped trying to recruit you?”
“That prick! He has not come around for several months. He doesn’t think I can help him after the crap programs I provided to him. He actually called me here at work and told me I couldn’t program my way out of a paper bag. I believe I threw him way off track. You are still monitoring his activities?”
“Yes, of course we are, along with several others. He is up to something we know. He will eventually defeat himself.”
“Good. As it should be for garbage such as him. Is the rest of the family good? Any new marriages or births I need to know about?”
“No changes. We are all sad that none of your son’s generation have fallen in love or found a way to make the next generation. And you, my darling girl, do you need anything? You know I would gladly pay for your efforts on our behalf for these programs.”
“I make a good living, Father. I have never asked for family money. The efforts are out of love, as you well know, and the belief that you help make the world better. I need to finish up here and get home to my son. Dobranoc, Father.”
“Dobranoc, Daughter. We will talk soon.”
Julianne finished wrapping up her efforts and closed down her work machine and her laptop. The laptop she stored in her briefcase, as it was always kept within reach. Turning off the lights as she stepped out and locked her office door, she wasn’t surprised to see the others had already left. Putting on her jacket, she took the elevator to the lobby and smiled as she thought of getting home and having the weekend to relax. Maybe she and Jacob could take in one of the Off-Broadway shows. They both deserved a little fun.
It was dark and the street deserted, though damp from heavy dew. Setting her gait for the twenty minute walk home, she felt herself relaxing as her legs stretched out after sitting at her desk most of the afternoon. Her thoughts wandered to the preparation of supper as she crossed the street. As usual she was intently focused on reaching the destination and not her immediate surroundings.
Over the years she’d learned to focus all her intellectual power on single issues or problems, to the exclusion of all else. This ability to focus her mind had served her well over the years. Tonight it betrayed her. She didn’t even notice the car starting up its engine, then aggressively revving the engine. The car lunged out with its high beams focused directly toward her face which disoriented and blinded her, causing her to freeze in mid stride. All those lessons delivered to her son while he was growing up about looking both ways and being aware of your surroundings completely failed to register in her paralyzed state.
Just like the spell cast by an experienced poacher with a high intensity search light designed to blind and pause a deer, so too did the car’s high beams render her immobile. The sound of the squealing tires was not due to a concerned driver trying to stop in time, but rather a predator accelerating the machine to lethal speed. In that all too brief window of time that she froze, all possibilities of her future life had only one outcome. The car viciously struck her, killing her as it rolled over her body, crushing her briefcase as well. Her last thought was of Jacob.
The predator brought the car to an abrupt stop and studied the scene for any signs of life in the rear view mirror. No amount of medical treatment would change the life pooling onto the pavement from the brutal crushing. Satisfied with a job done right the first time, the predator laughed like a mad-man. The car sped away with no pause and a driver with no remorse.
The investigating detective could find no evidence to change the finality of a random hit and run. She was interred with a quiet service attended by her priest, her son and his friend.
In this debut techno-thriller, the first in a planned series, a hacker finds his life turned upside down as a mysterious company tries to recruit him. Jacob Michaels, a hacker working as a tester for a New York information-security company called PT, Inc., is happy to be invited for a meeting at DEFCON, an annual hacker convention in Las Vegas. However, the invite comes in the form of an airline ticket with Jacob’s full name and address—information that he usually keeps concealed. It soon becomes clear that Jacob is under cyberattack, as people start receiving emails he didn’t send, and even the keycard to his room gets rejected. Meanwhile, a strange man named Otto is trying to hire Jacob—while also monitoring Jacob without his knowledge. Breakfield and Burkey’s novel is a thriller for the 21st century. Instead of drug or money mules, it features “information mules” who steal others’ codes and work for organizations such as Dteam, a Russian group that pilfers funds electronically. Jacob gradually learns about Otto’s business and its possible link to Jacob’s mother, who was run down by a car; at the same time, he becomes close with fellow hacker Petra, who may be on Otto’s payroll. Later, the focus shifts toward Dteam, run by a man named Grigory, and a Chinese school for cyberwarfare run by Lt. Col. Ling Po. Grigory and Po are remarkable villains, but the new subplots make Jacob a supporting character in his own story. On the plus side, Buzz, Jacob’s rich-kid friend who paid his way through MIT, faces so many obstacles that most readers won’t notice that the protagonist is sitting on the sidelines. Some exclamations, such as “Oh, poop!” give the story the feel of a YA novel, but the story’s sex scenes are markedly adult, in a romance-novel way: “[H]e pulled her closer and kissed her with such passion she immediately heated up.”
A complex thriller with a hacker-centric plot and polished technological descriptions that may attract new fans.