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so ...
quiet.
Not like my place in
San Jose."
Mr. Ingersoll twisted the gold ring on his finger, the finger where most men
wore wedding bands. But this ring had nothing to do with a wife. It was wide
with a ruby set in the middle and letters NSA clearly etched in fancy script
over the stone. He lifted the ringed hand, and let the curtains drop to cut
the glare, blocking the view of Joshua trees and yuccas,
The shift in light cast strange shadows on the walls of the small room. Cal's
head began to throb. He pressed his palms over his eyes, let a wave of
dizziness rise and then recede.
When he opened his eyes, Mr. Ingersoll was standing behind him. "Have you been
on VileSpawn lately?"
the NSA agent asked. Despite the fact that he had moved closer, his voice
seemed to be coming from a million miles away.
"Just for a minute today," Cal confessed, trying to keep his voice steady. "I
needed a break."
Mr. Ingersoll nodded. "No problem. I understand. You saw the message inquiring
as to your whereabouts?"
"Yeah," Cal said, "I sure did. Have no idea who posted it, Maybe TerMight.
Wasn't Hailstorm, He's dead."
"I saw that, too," Mr. Ingersoll said. His voice, usually firm and tight,
softened. He laid a hand on Cal's shoulder. "Sorry, Calvin, 1 know he was your
friend. If you like, I'll do some checking. Call the Seattle
Police Department for more information. Once they hear I'm with the NSA,
they'll tell me anything I want to know/'
"I'd appreciate that," Cal said. "Thanks."
"You understand, of course," Mr. Ingersoll said, "that you can't answer
whoever was asking about you.
I'm sure the ISD suspects you're our top gun on this project. If you break
cover, they'll be on us in a minute. Squash the project flat. You need to stay
underground until the job's finished. No communications, Calvin. Right?"
"Yes, sir," Cal said. "You're paying the bills."
"You're under a lot of pressure." Mr, Ingersoll settled into the adjacent
black leather chair and swiveled to face Cal. "We can't afford to blow the
heist. Internet Security is breathing down our necks. They consider this whole
operation a waste of money. It has to be done right.
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No shortcuts, no screwups.
What do you need to make that deadline three days from now?"
"The music?"
"Done. Anything else?"
"Maybe a few hours off-line. Go out for a pizza. Just hang out and relax a
little."
"I don't see why not. As long as you keep quiet about your work. Sounds
exactly like what the doctor ordered. Greg can take one of the limos."
"Then then ... it's okay?"
"Sure," Mr. Ingersoll said, rising from his chair and smiling. "Why not? We're
not running a prison here, Calvin. Even hackers need a social life. Have a
good time."
Excellent.
A night on the town away from the compound a down-and-dirty, outright mad
band, some live babes ...
Maybe Ca! had misjudged everything. Sure, Harry and Greg often treated him
like a kid, or like hired help, but Mr. Ingersoll, the big dog, was treating
him like a real professional.
Mr. Ingersoll understood.
He wasn't just a field operative, pulling guard duty like his flunkies. He was
an
NSA encryption expert, a mathematician, a programmer. He'd been a key
consultant to the Automated
Systems Security Incident Support Team at the Defense Information Systems
Agency back when they had developed i-Watch, the first Internet wiretap.
Suddenly, Cal felt at ease again, confident he was doing the right thing
working for Bob Ingersoll. A few more nights on the genetics software program,
just a few more nights ... and then Cal would crack into banks all over the
world, right off the Internet, leaving no trace that he'd been there.
He'd be a hero. He would have developed the first completely failsafe method
of Net cracking. The government would applaud him, mark him as a genius. His
future would be certain. He'd be set for life, personally heading a team of
programmers whose only goal was to create bleeding-edge code that prevented
real bank heists.
Greg.broke into his daydreams. "Come on, Cal. You better hit the shower before
we head to town. Then the two of us can get going, grab a pizza, maybe a few
beers. Kick back for a few hours, You'll feel a lot better. You're our key
player, our main man. We need you in top working condition."
Cal's thoughts turned to Mistie Lane. Forget the pizza. Forget the beer. Cal
wanted to find some girls.
"Yeah, get me into top working condition. That's tbe key," he said.
"Listen," Greg said, "I'm gonna put on some clean clothes, then get one of the
limos. You be ready in half an hour, and we'll bust out of here and have some
fun. Spend some of that government expense account." Greg balled a hand into a
fist and socked Cal playfully in the back. "Maybe we'll get lucky and score
with some ladies looking for a good time."
Cal couldn't believe his ears. It was like listening to his dreams come true.
His brother, Dan, had always treated him like a nerdy teenager. He was never
willing to fix Cal up with any of those hot waitresses who worked at the
restaurant. Dan didn't believe in sharing the wealth. Greg didn't seem to
mind, though, and he was a real studdog. He probably attracted girls like a
dog attracted fleas.
It wouldn't take long for Cal to get ready- He jumped in the shower, punched
in the water temperature and spray force both tuned to his personal taste.
Then he pulled on clean jeans and a zoid T-shirt. His blond hair, blown dry,
shimmered in long waves over his shoulders. He looked good.
He sat on the sofa in the living room and waited impatiently for Greg to bring
the limo, His fingers beat an incessant staccato on his knee. He couldn't wait
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to get off this compound, escape from the confines of the barbed-wire fences,
the security guards. Sure, he could wander freely around the grounds, but what
good was that, when wandering meant thrashing your way through prickled cacti
and desert scrub, fighting off snakes and ugly lizards? During the day the
heat baked all the moisture out of your body. And at night, no telling what
desert creepies might trip you up.
Tonight he'd finally cut loose.
He left the living room and walked outside, stood on the bottom step of the
front porch. He gazed up at the main house, which sat on a nearby foothill.
Cal wondered who had originally lived in the place; it was practically a
mansion. Probably a senator or congressman. That would explain how the NSA had
ended up here, with use of the cottage and free run of the compound, as well.
Despite what Cal's parents had told him, power obviously did have its
privileges.
After five minutes, a big white limo rumbled down the dirt road that connected
the main house with the
guest cottage. The car pulled up in front of the porch. The dark glass window
on the driver's side slid down without a sound. "You ready to go, Nikonchik?"
It was Harry, dressed in a white shirt and sports coat. "I'm playing
chauffeur. Tonight, you're getting the royal treatment. Get in."
Cal pulled open the rear door of the immense car and was slammed by a wall of
noise. Greg, holding a heer in one hand, grinned at him from inside. He waved.
"Come on, Cal. Climb aboard. We're gonna party," [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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