Authors: Ravenna Tate
Copyright© 2016 Ravenna Tate
Cover Artist: Jay
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized
reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of this book may be used or
reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All
names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To the amazing authors of
Naughty Quills: April
, Doris O’Connor, Kacey
, Michelle Roth, Moira Callahan, and Raven
. Thank you for your constant support and
encouragement. I am so proud to be part of NQ and of Evernight Publishing with
each of you, and I’m thrilled to count you among my friends.
HARDWIRED FOR ECSTASY
The Weathermen, 10
Copyright © 2016
the year 2112, weather researchers around the globe made history with a
computer program nicknamed The Madeline Project. The program used a complicated
series of electrical pulses to induce changes in clouds. The intention was to
prevent or lessen catastrophic weather events such as major floods, tornadoes,
and hurricanes. The first real-time test, in 2116, proved moderately
successful, and the researchers continued to tweak the program, hoping for
complete weather modification one day.
something went terribly wrong in 2117, when a group of hackers gained access to
The Madeline Project and tried unsuccessfully to take it down it with a virus
they called Tommy Twister. The program took on a life of its own, and instead
of lessening the effects of weather events, it increased them to catastrophic
proportions. By 2118, over eighty-five percent of the Earth above ground had
been rendered uninhabitable due to the effects of near-constant and powerful
storms. And to date, no one has been able to stop The Madeline Project, or find
the hackers responsible for this devastation.
in the year 2125, Earth’s population lives underground in sprawling cities,
built during the nuclear war scare of 2072. Communication between cities and
across continents is only possible via the Internet. And the only people who go
above ground routinely are an international group of weather researchers and
storm chasers dubbed Storm Troopers. Their mission is to collect data during
the barrage of catastrophic weather events, in the hopes this data will assist
researchers in taking down The Madeline Project.
financial backing for these cities, the network of interconnected computers,
and the Storm Troopers is provided by a group of friends who met in college,
and who each built multi-million dollar communications and IT companies before
The Madeline Project went awry. They’re a powerful, wealthy, ruthless group of
men who take what they want, when they want it. They call themselves the
Sawyer frowned as she sized up the building that housed Yates Industries. After
living in Central for the past seven years, the buildings in CentralEast seemed
small and squat in comparison. It was too quiet here, as well.
already missed the hustle and bustle of the capital city, though she did
miss her old job. She hoped she
hadn’t made a terrible mistake moving here to take this new job, but staying in
Central had no longer been an option. The Central Police Headquarters captain
had seen to that.
mentally shook away thoughts of Leland. He couldn’t hurt her any longer, and he
wasn’t the only reason she’d left Central. She really had not enjoyed her
former job at all. She had only taken it because IT degrees were too common
now, and there weren’t enough opportunities to go with them. She knew people
with advanced IT degrees who were waiting tables.
position she was about to start today was more suited to her career goals, and
she was excited to begin. This was a chance to start over completely. New job,
new city, and maybe one day, a new love life.
she no longer believed that all men lied and cheated.
shook off the memories again and walked into the lobby, grinning at the
life-sized models of prototypes depicting the company’s latest gadgets. They
were the focal points of the space, in which everything was chrome and steel,
with just enough subtle blues and silvers to give the décor some color.
landed this job after a video interview with an HR rep, and wondered whether
the CEO, Atticus Yates, was as austere as the lobby of his building. She hoped
not. Emma preferred working for warm people, but this was her dream job and
she’d make the best of it either way.
was, after all, one of the infamous Weathermen. Most women she knew would give
their eye teeth to work for one of them, or at least to date one. But Emma
wanted no part of that. The three Weathermen who weren’t engaged or married
were still all over the tabloids online, changing girlfriends as often as they
likely changed socks. That wasn’t her cup of tea, thank you very much.
Especially not after what she’d gone through with Leland.
receptionist told her Atticus was waiting for her on the top floor. She handed
Emma a temporary badge and gave her the code to key into the elevator. She
explained Atticus wanted to speak with her first and would then walk her to HR
where she would complete the process of becoming an official employee of Yates
Industries. And she said all this with perfect hair, flawless makeup, and very
white teeth. Emma felt shoddy and underdressed compared to this woman, even
though she wore a suit and her shoes were new.
obviously made a horrible mistake. She wasn’t chic enough to work here. So much
for the theory that Central was the only city with culture and taste.
she stepped off the elevator, another impeccably dressed woman met her, showing
Emma a smile filled with warmth as well as great teeth. Emma was momentarily
reminded of an old movie from the mid-twentieth century titled
The Stepford Wives
. In it, all the wives
of a small New England town seemed perfect on the surface, but underneath they
weren’t even human.
woman knocked on a set of doors, and a deep masculine voice called for her to
come in. She opened one of the doors and ushered Emma inside with a wave of her
hand—her perfectly manicured hand.
gave her a quick smile then went inside, wishing she’d stayed in Central and
taken a job at one of the restaurants, like everyone else had done.
seen pictures of Atticus online, of course, but wasn’t prepared for the sight
of him in person. Dressed in a dark blue suit, red plaid tie, and crisp white
shirt, he looked like an American flag gone rogue. But it wasn’t his clothes
that held her spellbound. It was those dark eyes, boring into her soul.
advanced toward her, his hand extended and the corners of his mouth turned up.
Full lips, a five o’clock shadow at eight in the morning, and bone structure
that had been chiseled by the Greek gods, she stared at him, unable to think
clearly. The pictures online did
do him justice.
Sawyer. At last we meet. I’m Atticus Yates. Welcome to my company.”
shook his hand, nearly pulling away as a tiny jolt of electricity shot up her
arm. Did that actually happen in real life?
. “Nice to meet you, too. Thank you for this opportunity.” Good lord. Her
voice sounded like a robot’s.
Get a grip.
He’s only a man.
have a seat.”
thought he was going to sit behind his desk again, but instead he pulled a
chair over and sat facing her. She caught the whiff of expensive cologne and
could feel the heat from his body. Emma was surprised by the visceral reaction.
This man was now her boss, and he was a player. She needed to get her hormones
me explain what you’ll be doing here for me.”
HR rep told me it was a position on your design team.” Hardware and software
design and modification had been her pet projects in grad school.
is, but I have special project in mind for you. One that will utilize all you
learned working for the Central police department.”
hoped the disappointment didn’t show on her face. She’d just spent the past
seven years hacking into sites to find IP addresses and machine IDs for people
with arrest warrants, and suspects the police were having difficulty tracking
down. If she’d known that was what he’d paid to move to her CentralEast to do,
she wouldn’t have accepted the job offer.
need someone with your unique skills to do something special and confidential
for me. We’re currently looking for the hackers who compromised The Madeline
Project, but I want to design something that will streamline such an operation
one day. Whether that’s a stick, an app, or something entirely new. I’ve come
up with a few design ideas, but I haven’t built a prototype yet. I decided to
put someone on this full time.”
blinked a few times, struggling to gather her thoughts. Either he was a genius,
or mad as a hatter. “Let me make sure I understand what you’re asking. You want
something that customers can use to check machine IDs or IP addresses, without
using what? The code?”
they’d still use the code, but the device or app would do the work for them.”
are actually software, but of course you know that…” Her voice trailed off as
heat rose to her face. She was talking to the king of gadgets here.
the device you design would have the applicable software built in. It would be
self-contained, like the GPS systems we used to use in cars above the surface.
People would be able to update them with new versions of the software. I know
you have expertise in both hardware and software design. You also have
experience tracking down people, which is why you were hired.”
couldn’t help but smile. She not only loved his vision, she was flattered he
thought so highly of her work. To know about her prior work in software and
hardware design, he’d obviously looked into her background during grad school,
which meant he’d done his homework. Being hired after only a cursory interview
with an HR rep finally made sense. He’d already known he wanted her working for
settled back against the leather chair. “Can you tell me more about the
hackers? Or at least, what you’ve found so far and how you’ve tracked them
was very little online about that subject, but then she hadn’t expected to find
much. It didn’t do any good to track down the people who had done this if you
told them how you planned to do it.
rumors, however, were rampant. Everything from the Weathermen had found them
all and were holding them in an undisclosed location, trying to get them to
confess the code that would stop The Madeline Project, to the opinion of some
that they hadn’t found any of them, and the rumor they were looking was a ruse set
up to mask criminal activity.
can tell you everything. You’re part of this now, but I assume I don’t have to
emphasize this information can’t be made public.”
just met me. How is it you trust me already?”
grinned. “Your work record is impeccable, and I do thorough background checks
on all my employees. When you’re in my position you have to, although even with
the background checks, we sometimes miss things at first.”
swallowed hard at the angry tone in his voice. She knew he didn’t mean he’d
found something on her, or they wouldn’t be having this conversation. Leland
had promised he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her reputation if she in turn
didn’t expose what he had done. Leland had backed her into a corner, but right
now, Emma was grateful for that. If luck stayed on her side, Atticus would
never have to know about that chapter in her life.
here’s where we are to date.” He settled back, crossing one ankle over the
opposite knee. The gesture was so informal it sent her mind wandering to what
he looked like in casual clothes. The man was seriously gorgeous up close and
personal. That suit fit him as if it had been made for him, which it likely had
Wonder what he looks like out of
forced her attention back to the present.
Easton, when she first came to work for Ace, was an analyst for his PR
websites. She transferred to his hacker team and noticed some of the same
usernames she’d seen on the forums in PR and other areas were also on the
forums the hacker team was monitoring.”
did they monitor?”
that cropped up after The Madeline Project had its first real time test, where
weather geeks and conspiracy theorists still hang out, as well as sites where
hackers are known to congregate. We each had a team, looking for any clues to
who might have done this. But it wasn’t until Harper noticed the some of the same
usernames that we had our first big break.”
of you had been cross-checking the names?”
shook his head. “No. The hacker teams worked on a separate system. They still
do. Now we each have a team that not only monitors the message boards, they’re
also looking for the fifth hacker, as well as the real names of several people
who used to work for NSSL. There’s a small group that we now know are involved
with the hackers.”
leaned forward, her attention finally on his words instead of his muscled body
that those clothes could not hide. “So you’ve actually found four of them?”
have. We’re sitting on them for now until we find the fifth.”
loved his voice. It was the kind that evoked images of candlelit rooms and
naked, sweaty bodies.
will you do once you find the last one? Do you know there are rumors out there
that say you have
all, and are holding them
laugh was soft, and the sound sent shivers down her spine, which did not help
her raging hormones one bit. “I know. That’s one of my favorites, to be honest,
because it’s very close to the truth of what we all want to do with them.”
last sentence was filled with conviction and power. He and the other Weathermen
were among the wealthiest people on the planet. Everyone knew who they were,
and if even half the general rumors about them were true, they had connections
that went all the way to certain key offices of the government in Central.
now, we’re waiting until we find the fifth. Then we’ll figure this out.” His
expression grew serious. “This program has to be stopped, Emma. Do you know who
Oliver Fairchild is?”
His company runs the systems that keep us alive down here.”
right. He and others in the same field have data that show we only have
approximately three years before the oxygen content on the surface falls to
levels below those we need to manufacture breathable air underground. In other
words, we will all suffocate in three years if we can’t find a way to shut this
The storms on the surface have destroyed almost every plant up there.”
knew about the storms on the surface, and how they had drastically changed the
landscape in seven years. Everyone did. But what Atticus had just told her
wasn’t the type of news being spread around. It was close to a few of the
rumors she’d read, but this wasn’t a theory on a message board. This was real.
you can imagine how desperate we are to put an end to this. After Harper found
the same usernames, we got another break when a former member of Ace’s hacker
team was discovered to be connected to the program hackers. We retrieved data
from one of his laptops that helped lead us to two of the hackers, as well as
several real names of people connected to them, and who used to work for NSSL.”