Authors: Theo Cage
Edition 3.0 By Theo Cage
Copyright © 2014 Russell Earl Smith
Published by Shaylee Press
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, companies and incidents are fully the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, businesses, establishments or events is entirely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is dedicated to Sergeant Henry P. Daly
, a 28-year veteran of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department who was killed November 22, 1994, by an armed intruder who entered Police headquarters.
“World War III won’t be fought by nations. It will be a personal war of suicide bombers, public terrorism and cyber warfare.”
Director of the CIA, George Halcroft
“J-Day will be the most awesome cluster of the century. We will crush the one percent.”
Booter and hacker, Randy Dinsmore, 15
IN THE BEGINNING
Kerri started her last day on earth by missing the red-eye out of Chicago.
She should have known then the day had something in store for her. But she was too busy worrying about the biggest client presentation of her career.
Yes, they had snagged Google - or at least a chance to convince Google that they should be working together.
Kerri still couldn’t believe it - a chance to work with one of the coolest companies on the planet. She could think of nothing else for a week.
Kerri was the Regional Creative Director for Submarine, an advertising agency out of Atlanta. Finally, after days of nervous preparation, she was meeting her creative team that evening in San Francisco to go over the pitch.
But a new alarm app, one she had downloaded the day before for her smart phone, obviously wasn’t as user-friendly as the website claimed. So she woke up almost an hour late with her heart pumping so fast she thought she was having her first anxiety attack.
Join the club
she thought. Didn’t everyone in the advertising biz have these things on a regular basis? She better get used to the feeling then because she was definitely in this for the long haul.
She rushed around the Holiday Inn suite with her head feeling like David Grohl’s snare drum - and a sick feeling growing in her stomach. If the security line at the airport wasn’t as jammed with vacation travelers as usual - if the traffic to the airport would just for once actually move at the speed limit - or if her taxi driver was a former Formula One racecar driver, then she just might have a chance.
But the first cab she got into, just outside the hotel lobby, lost its muffler half way to O’Hare and she had to wait thirty minutes at the side of the highway for a replacement.
If she didn’t know better, she’d think somebody didn’t want her to get to California.
At the airport she found a flight that would get her to her meeting about three hours late. Three hours was forever, but what choice did she really have? She’d convince her presentation team to forego sleep if she had to, and make the pitch to Google in the morning. That’s why God made caffeine. It would all work out.
Kerri finally boarded a shiny new BlueSky Airbus A320 at nine-thirty AM, Flight 2777. As soon as they took off she pulled out her laptop so she could go over her media plan for the new client. There were eighty-seven passengers on board - a fairly light mid-week milk run, so she had room to stretch out.
What Kerri didn’t know was this was the jet’s maiden flight; a totally re-designed new Airbus, that for safety reasons, featured three completely autonomous flight processors on board. That was serious redundancy.
General Logic, an aeronautics supplier in Reno, Nevada, manufactured the computers. The Quality Assurance manager for that company, Jake Pinkerton, was the person responsible for final inspection of all the flight control modules at the factory.
Jake had a bit of a problem though. He liked to drive to Vegas on weekends and live like a high roller. He was seriously addicted to high stakes Blackjack. As a result, the home he and his wife built twelve years earlier and worth about 1.5 million dollars was seriously upside down. In bankers talk that meant he now owed more on the house than it was worth. A fact he had been able to keep from his family. So far.
One Saturday evening, about three years ago, sitting at a Blackjack table at the Mirage, a well-dressed man came up to him and asked to talk to him privately. Jake broke into a sweat thinking this was the security manager at the hotel looking for an overdue gambling payment, but he wasn’t. He had a simple proposition.
In trade for two million dollars of untraceable cash, this stranger wanted Jake to agree to insert military-designed integrated circuits into the company’s flight modules for the next production run, about fifty units.
Jake said without having to think about it “Are you fucking crazy?”
The stranger smiled and flashed ID.
He explained carefully that he was with Homeland Security. These updated chips would allow the feds to track the planes and their data. And yes, it was highly confidential and he knew that company management would never agree to the plan. But they had verifiable data that someone at BlueSky was involved with a terrorist organization or cell. Hundreds of lives were potentially at stake.
Jake looked shocked.
“It’s like a wiretap,” the agent added. “Not something we like to admit to, but we can’t tip off BlueSky or their management. That’s critical.”
Jake’s thinking had slowly shifted. He thought of himself as a patriot and was now more focused on the two million dollars than any moral jeopardy he might be facing.
“Would these mods compromise the safety of these jets in anyway?”
“Of course not. Our top electronics people designed them. You can test them yourself. They will be flawless copies only the U.S. Government could pull off.”
“How do I know you’re Homeland Security?”
The agent gave him his card. It looked and felt official. Gold leaf embossed.
“Call my supervisor right now.’ He then gave Jake his name and employee number.
Jake peeled out his smart phone and called the number. He had a pleasant conversation with a very officious woman he had been passed onto from what genuinely sounded like Homeland Securities reception in Washington. She knew quite a bit about Jake and his family; things he was shocked to hear over the phone. Only the government could have access to that kind of personal date.
When he got off the call he asked the agent one final question. “Why the money? Why not just appeal to my sense of patriotism?”
The agent smiled like he had heard this many times before. “Mr. Pinkerton, do you know how much money has changed hands between our organization and Al Qaeda in the past two years? Over twenty-five million dollars for insider information and tips. Why shouldn’t an upstanding American be treated as well as a greedy terrorist?”
That made sense. So Jake agreed. He took possession of a suitcase full of money a few hours later. What choice did he really have?
At 12:03 PM, just as the mid-sized jet was preparing for a landing at San Fran Airport, and Kerri was finishing her second coffee, a signal went out to the jets three identical control modules to initiate a complete system reset. Within a matter of mere seconds, all lights went out on the BlueSky jet, the engines stalled and the flight crew exchanged nervous glances.
This had never happened to them before.
When a big jet losses power, it tends to drop its nose and lose altitude very quickly. Which is exactly what happened. There was no warning for anyone on board, and the eerie quiet of an Airbus settling into an uncontrolled descent is one of the most frightening experiences a passenger can face.
The flight crew quickly groped their way to their seats and belted in.
When the power first went off, Kerri leaned her head back and sighed. Here we go again, she thought. She was almost surprised her laptop hadn’t burst into flames today. Nothing seemed to be working out. Then she realized that the flight crew was unusually quiet. And there was no word from the pilot. She began to hear people praying around her and a man across the aisle had his cell phone out waiting for it to power up, tears running down his face.
For the first time that day, she stopped thinking about the Google presentation.
In the cabin, the flight crew was busy trying to radio in an emergency on a communications system that was completely dead. The computers refused to reset. And without any flight management, a controlled glide was also out of the question.
Only eighty seconds later, flight 2777 arrowed down into the San Francisco Bay, only a mile from Google’s head office, killing everyone on board.
There were over a hundred passenger jets in the air that day carrying modified flight control modules. All could have experienced complete shutdown and subsequent total loss of life. But that would come later.
Flight 2777, as it turned out, was only a warm-up.
There were five of them. One woman and four men ranging in age from twenty-eight to eighty-six. They sat around a corner table at Truluck’s in La Jolla, near the back, hoping none of their colleagues would find them there - and ask what they were up to.
The secrecy of the meeting gave the evening a tiny frisson of intrigue for all but one of them. That was Ezrah Kaufmann from Stanford University. The meeting after all was his idea. He had been the one who proposed they put their esteemed and tenured heads together on a project he had been working on for years.
Since he was an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls and many other biblical antiquities, it only made sense that he had a life-long fascination for the book of
. It was an unsolvable collection of riddles that his friend, Indra Chapertah from Harvard, an Indian cosmologist and puzzle aficionado, had proposed a solution for. He sat next to him now, his face glowing in the light of the table candles, a full glass of red wine close at hand.
“I propose a toast,” Chapertah said raising his glass sloppily. It was not his first toast of the evening.
Esther Nates, a mathematician from Berkeley, raised her glass of scotch and water and smiled. “What are we toasting this time, Chappy? The end of our careers - when our colleagues find out what we are working on? Or a final farewell as we all go into hiding.” Esther had solved the famous Hodge Conjecture problem two years before which had earned her a $1,000,000 prize, a math puzzle no one had been able to solve for over 50 years. There was no doubt she was the smartest person at the table. Drinks were on her tonight.
Kaufman, the biblical expert, shook his head. “Nonsense. Let’s not be paranoid. We are simply solving a riddle. The fact that this conundrum lay within the pages of a religious document is neither here nor there.”
Indra looked perplexed. He still struggled with English idioms despite being in America for over a decade. “Here nor there? What does that mean?” nHe slurred the last word slightly.
The youngest member of the group, a handsome and well-dressed outlier named Henry Gridley, a historian from Georgetown University, touched Indra’s sleeve.
“It means irrelevant,” he whispered
“Here nor there? A reference to two distinct and isolated spatial identities? And I am supposed to translate that to mean ‘not relevant’? I’m convinced just learning English has reduced my IQ by fifteen points.”
“If you still have enough brain power left over after this party to find your car keys, Indra, that is all you really need in America.”
That was Abe Bugloski. His friends called him Bugsy. He was eighty-six years old, skied in the winter and rode his bike to work every day in the other three seasons, where he worked at Columbia University in Engineering. He was the only one not drinking alcohol, insisting instead on a pot of Earl Grey tea. He clinked his cup against Chapertah’s wine glass.
Then Gridely jumped in. “I hate to put a damper on the festivities my friends, but we need to talk about the final proof of our document.” He pushed his unruly red hair off his forehead. “Ezra has final edit rights, after all this is his pet project, but I’m still a bit concerned about the ramifications of this... going public.”
Everyone nodded in the general direction of Kaufmann, waiting for him to respond.
“You’re worried, Henry?” asked Kaufman.
“I admit I am. We’ve uncovered a conspiracy, if you want to call it that, being coordinated by a very powerful group of people with allies in every major corporation and government department. Don’t you think they will try to protect their interests if they hear we have connected the dots.”
“Some dots,” barked Esther, emptying her glass of twelve-year-old Cragganmore scotch.
“I’m with Henry,” added Bugsy. “This cult we’ve uncovered has spent millions putting this scheme of theirs together. I don’t see why they would hesitate to come after us if it meant protecting their secrecy. And their hundreds of churches across the globe.”
Chapertah poured another glass of wine for himself. “This is just an exercise my friends. An intellectual experiment designed to add some testing and rigor to a scary old poem written two thousand years ago.
has been…” At this point he spilled his wine on the tabletop drowning his special order of curried yams. “Very sorry, but this may actually improve the flavor. As I was saying - it has been used mostly to scare the uneducated into doing what powerful people want them to do. That is what it was written for back then. We are not uneducated.”
“But Chappy, someone is using it for that same purpose again. To reset the world. And they have millions of followers, millions maybe billions of dollars to use to fund their plans. If they are ruthless
and I think we have every reason to suspect they ar
then we might be standing in their way. Not a good place to be.”
“But it doesn’t matter because no one will listen us anyway,” added Bugsy. “Our theory about this jet crashing in California being part of this whole conspiracy only makes us look nuttier. The media, if they knew, would just call us a bunch of conspiracy theory eggheads.”
“And they wouldn’t be half wrong,” interjected Esther, who was considering heading outside for a rare cigarette, but didn’t want to miss anything. “By the way, gentlemen, what is the deadline for this
Kaufmann cleared his throat and looked around. No one was smiling now. “The global Internet attack comes in ten days.”
Esther licked her lips, wishing she had another scotch in her hand. “So what do we do now gentlemen? We know something tragic is about to happen. And we know when. Who do we take this to?”
At that moment, their server approached the table looking like she had just won the lottery “I have great news for everyone. An anonymous benefactor has paid for your dinner and drinks. And a very generous tip.” She laughed then. “You know, I don’t even know what a ‘benefactor’ is, but he told me to tell you that. And he left you all a note.” She handed a small folded card to Esther with
embossed on the front and headed off to serve another customer.
Esther looked around the table at all the curious faces.
Someone was being very generous
Could it be a colleague who had seen us all together?
She opened the card. The message was written in a beautiful flowing script.
We are doing God’s work. Interfere, and all of you will die. Save yourselves and those you love by destroying your blasphemous research paper now – and never speak of it again.
If you think I’m joking, just test me.
A True Believer.