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Dan Brown Digital Fortress

Dan Brown Digital Fortress


For my parents my mentors and heroes A debt of gratitude: to my editors at St. Martins Press, Thomas Dunne and the ex eptiona!!y ta!ented Me!issa "a obs. To my agents in #e$ %or&, 'eorge (ieser, )!ga (ieser, and "a&e *!$e!!. To a!! those $ho read and ontributed to the manus ript a!ong the $ay. And espe ia!!y to my $ife, +!ythe, for her enthusiasm and patien e.

A!so a ,uiet than& you to the t$o fa e!ess ex-#SA ryptographers $ho made in.a!uab!e ontributions .ia anonymous remai!ers. (ithout them this boo& $ou!d not ha.e been $ritten.

Prologue
P!a/a de *spa0a Se.i!!e, Spain 11:22 A.M. It is said that in death, all things become clear; Ensei Tankado now knew it was true. As he clutched his chest and fell to the ground in pain, he realized the horror of his mistake. People appeared, hovering over him, tr ing to help. !ut Tankado did not want help"it was too late for that. Trembling, he raised his left hand and held his fingers outward. 3oo& at my hand4 The faces around him stared, but he could tell the did not understand. #n his finger was an engraved golden ring. $or an instant, the markings glimmered in the Andalusian sun. Ensei Tankado knew it was the last light he would ever see.

Chapter 1
The were in the smok mountains at their favorite bed%and%breakfast. &avid was smiling down at her. '(hat do ou sa , gorgeous) *arr me)+ ,ooking up from their canop bed, she knew he was the one. $orever. As she stared into his deep%green e es, somewhere in the distance a deafening bell began to ring. It was pulling him awa . -he reached for him, but her arms clutched empt air. It was the sound of the phone that full awoke -usan $letcher from her dream. -he gasped, sat up in bed, and fumbled for the receiver. '.ello)+ '-usan, it/s &avid. &id I wake ou)+ -he smiled, rolling over in bed. 'I was 0ust dreaming of ou. 1ome over and pla .+ .e laughed. 'It/s still dark out.+ '*mm.+ -he moaned sensuousl . 'Then definite!y come over and pla . (e can sleep in before we head north.+ &avid let out a frustrated sigh. 'That/s wh I/m calling. It/s about our trip. I/ve got to postpone.+ -usan was suddenl wide awake. '(hat2+ 'I/m sorr . I/ve got to leave town. I/ll be back b tomorrow. (e can head up first thing in the morning. (e/ll still have two da s.+ '!ut I made reservations,+ -usan said, hurt. 'I got our old room at -tone *anor.+ 'I know, but"+ 'Tonight was supposed to be spe ia! "to celebrate si3 months. 4ou do remember we/re engaged, don/t ou)+ '-usan.+ .e sighed. 'I reall can/t go into it now, the /ve got a car waiting. I/ll call ou from the plane and e3plain ever thing.+ 5P!ane67 she repeated. '(hat/s going on) (h would the universit 5)+ 'It/s not the universit . I/ll phone and e3plain later. I/ve reall got to go; the /re calling for me. I/ll be in touch. I promise.+ '&avid2+ she cried. '(hat/s"+ !ut it was too late. &avid had hung up. -usan $letcher la awake for hours waiting for him to call back. The phone never rang. ***

,ater that afternoon -usan sat de0ected in the tub. -he submerged herself in the soap water and tried to forget -tone *anor and the -mok *ountains. (here ou!d he be6 she wondered. (hy hasnt he a!!ed6 6raduall the water around her went from hot to lukewarm and finall to cold. -he was about to get out when her cordless phone buzzed to life. -usan bolted upright, sloshing water on the floor as she grappled for the receiver she/d left on the sink. '&avid)+ 'It/s -trathmore,+ the voice replied. -usan slumped. '#h.+ -he was unable to hide her disappointment. '6ood afternoon, 1ommander.+ '.oping for a ounger man)+ The voice chuckled. '7o, sir,+ -usan said, embarrassed. 'It/s not how it"+ '-ure it is.+ .e laughed. '&avid !ecker/s a good man. &on/t ever lose him.+ 'Thank ou, sir.+ The commander/s voice turned suddenl stern. '-usan, I/m calling because I need ou in here. Pronto.+ -he tried to focus. 'It/s -aturda , sir. (e don/t usuall "+ 'I know,+ he said calml . 'It/s an emergenc .+ -usan sat up. *mergen y6 -he had never heard the word cross 1ommander -trathmore/s lips. An emergen y6 8n 9rypto6 -he couldn/t imagine. '4% es, sir.+ -he paused. 'I/ll be there as soon as I can.+ '*ake it sooner.+ -trathmore hung up. *** -usan $letcher stood wrapped in a towel and dripped on the neatl folded clothes she/d set out the night before"hiking shorts, a sweater for the cool mountain evenings, and the new lingerie she/d bought for the nights. &epressed, she went to her closet for a clean blouse and skirt. An emergen y6 8n 9rypto6 As she went downstairs, -usan wondered how the da could get much worse. -he was about to find out.

Chapter 2
Thirt thousand feet above a dead%calm ocean, &avid !ecker stared miserabl from the ,ear0et 89/s small, oval window. .e/d been told the phone on board was out of order, and he/d never had a chance to call -usan. '(hat am I doing here)+ he grumbled to himself. !ut the answer was simple"there were men to whom ou 0ust didn/t sa no. '*r. !ecker,+ the loudspeaker crackled. '(e/ll be arriving in half an hour.+ !ecker nodded gloomil to the invisible voice. (onderfu!. .e pulled the shade and tried to sleep. !ut he could onl think of her.

Chapter 3
-usan/s :olvo sedan rolled to a stop in the shadow of the ten%foot%high, barbed 1 clone fence. A oung guard placed his hand on the roof. 'I&, please.+

-usan obliged and settled in for the usual half%minute wait. The officer ran her card through a computerized scanner. $inall he looked up. 'Thank ou, *s. $letcher.+ .e gave an imperceptible sign, and the gate swung open. .alf a mile ahead -usan repeated the entire procedure at an e;uall imposing electrified fence. 9ome on, guys 8.e on!y been through here a mi!!ion times. As she approached the final checkpoint, a stock sentr with two attack dogs and a machine gun glanced down at her license plate and waved her through. -he followed 1anine <oad for another =>9 ards and pulled into Emplo ee ,ot 1. :nbe!ie.ab!e, she thought. T$enty- six thousand emp!oyees and a t$e!.e-bi!!ion-do!!ar budget; youd thin& they ou!d ma&e it through the $ee&end $ithout me. -usan gunned the car into her reserved spot and killed the engine. After crossing the landscaped terrace and entering the main building, she cleared two more internal checkpoints and finall arrived at the windowless tunnel that led to the new wing. A voice%scan booth blocked her entr . NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY (NSA) CRYPTO FACILITY AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY The armed guard looked up. 'Afternoon, *s. $letcher.+ -usan smiled tiredl . '.i, ?ohn.+ '&idn/t e3pect ou toda .+ '4eah, me neither.+ -he leaned toward the parabolic microphone. '-usan $letcher,+ she stated clearl . The computer instantl confirmed the fre;uenc concentrations in her voice, and the gate clicked open. -he stepped through. *** The guard admired -usan as she began her walk down the cement causewa . .e noticed that her strong hazel e es seemed distant toda , but her cheeks had a flushed freshness, and her shoulder%length, auburn hair looked newl blown dr . Trailing her was the faint scent of ?ohnson/s !ab Powder. .is e es fell the length of her slender torso"to her white blouse with the bra barel visible beneath, to her knee%length khaki skirt, and finall to her legs5 -usan $letcher/s legs. .ard to imagine the support a @A9 IB, he mused to himself. .e stared after her a long time. $inall he shook his head as she disappeared in the distance. *** As -usan reached the end of the tunnel, a circular, vaultlike door blocked her wa . The enormous letters readC cr pto. -ighing, she placed her hand inside the recessed cipher bo3 and entered her five%digit PI7. -econds later the twelve%ton slab of steel began to revolve. -he tried to focus, but her thoughts reeled back to him. &avid !ecker. The onl man she/d ever loved. The oungest full professor at 6eorgetown Dniversit and a brilliant foreign%language specialist, he was practicall a celebrit in the world of academia. !orn with an eidetic memor and a love of languages, he/d mastered si3 Asian dialects as well as -panish, $rench, and Italian. .is universit lectures on et molog and linguistics were standing%room onl , and he invariabl sta ed late to answer a barrage of ;uestions. .e spoke with authorit and enthusiasm, apparentl oblivious to the adoring gazes of his star%struck coeds.

!ecker was dark"a rugged, outhful thirt %five with sharp green e es and a wit to match. .is strong 0aw and taut features reminded -usan of carved marble. #ver si3 feet tall, !ecker moved across a s;uash court faster than an of his colleagues could comprehend. After soundl beating his opponent, he would cool off b dousing his head in a drinking fountain and soaking his tuft of thick, black hair. Then, still dripping, he/d treat his opponent to a fruit shake and a bagel. As with all oung professors, &avid/s universit salar was modest. $rom time to time, when he needed to renew his s;uash club membership or restring his old &unlop with gut, he earned e3tra mone b doing translating work for government agencies in and around (ashington. It was on one of those 0obs that he/d met -usan. It was a crisp morning during fall break when !ecker returned from a morning 0og to his three%room facult apartment to find his answering machine blinking. .e downed a ;uart of orange 0uice as he listened to the pla back. The message was like man he received"a government agenc re;uesting his translating services for a few hours later that morning. The onl strange thing was that !ecker had never heard of the organization. 'The /re called the 7ational -ecurit Agenc ,+ !ecker said, calling a few of his colleagues for background. The repl was alwa s the same. '4ou mean the 7ational -ecurit 9oun i!67 !ecker checked the message. '7o. The said Agen y. The 7-A.+ '7ever heard of Eem.+ !ecker checked the 6A# &irector , and it showed no listing either. Puzzled, !ecker called one of his old s;uash buddies, an e3%political anal st turned research clerk at the ,ibrar of 1ongress. &avid was shocked b his friend/s e3planation. Apparentl , not onl did the 7-A e3ist, but it was considered one of the most influential government organizations in the world. It had been gathering global electronic intelligence data and protecting D.-. classified information for over half a centur . #nl F percent of Americans were even aware it e3isted. '7-A,+ his budd 0oked, 'stands for E7o -uch Agenc ./ ' (ith a mi3ture of apprehension and curiosit , !ecker accepted the m sterious agenc /s offer. .e drove the thirt %seven miles to their eight %si3%acre head;uarters hidden discreetl in the wooded hills of $ort *eade, *ar land. After passing through endless securit checks and being issued a si3%hour, holographic guest pass, he was escorted to a plush research facilit where he was told he would spend the afternoon providing 'blind support+ to the 1r ptograph &ivision"an elite group of mathematical brainiacs known as the code%breakers. $or the first hour, the cr ptographers seemed unaware !ecker was even there. The hovered around an enormous table and spoke a language !ecker had never heard. The spoke of stream ciphers, self%decimated generators, knapsack variants, zero knowledge protocols, unicit points. !ecker observed, lost. The scrawled s mbols on graph paper, pored over computer printouts, and continuousl referred to the 0umble of te3t on the overhead pro0ector. ?.d0aF0G.&hmadoHertwt0lwI0g0F=J >0halsfn.Ghhhfaf#hhdfgafHf0FAwe ohiKFL>9sKd0fd=hH..rt $.,fJKF9F K>0sp0f=09JK9Ih0KJ hfi9J9ewrt9F 0o0rJL>h9ro;I0t9euLt;ef;eHHou0w 9JD49I.9KFL0tpwfia0er9K;uL0rKgu iv0PMduwLhK>peJrtugv0wFpLeHikkc mffuerhfgv9;FKLik0rmgIunhvsKoer irkH9K>8 Au9poikI#0pKfJA89;wer;i Eventuall one of them e3plained what !ecker had alread surmised. The scrambled te3t was a code"a 'cipher te3t+"groups of numbers and letters representing encr pted words. The cr ptographers/ 0ob was to stud the code and e3tract from it the original message, or 'clearte3t.+

The 7-A had called !ecker because the suspected the original message was written in *andarin 1hinese; he was to translate the s mbols as the cr ptographers decr pted them. $or two hours, !ecker interpreted an endless stream of *andarin s mbols. !ut each time he gave them a translation, the cr ptographers shook their heads in despair. Apparentl the code was not making sense. Eager to help, !ecker pointed out that all the characters the /d shown him had a common trait"the were also part of the Gan0i language. Instantl the bustle in the room fell silent. The man in charge, a lank chain%smoker named *orante, turned to !ecker in disbelief. '4ou mean these s mbols have multiple meanings)+ !ecker nodded. .e e3plained that Gan0i was a ?apanese writing s stem based on modified 1hinese characters. .e/d been giving *andarin translations because that/s what the /d asked for. '?esus 1hrist.+ *orante coughed. ',et/s tr the Gan0i.+ ,ike magic, ever thing fell into place. The cr ptographers were dul impressed, but nonetheless, the still made !ecker work on the characters out of se;uence. 'It/s for our own safet ,+ *orante said. 'This wa , ou won/t know what ou/re translating.+ !ecker laughed. Then he noticed nobod else was laughing. (hen the code finall broke, !ecker had no idea what dark secrets he/d helped reveal, but one thing was for certain"the 7-A took code%breaking seriousl ; the check in !ecker/s pocket was more than an entire month/s universit salar . #n his wa back out through the series of securit check points in the main corridor, !ecker/s e3it was blocked b a guard hanging up a phone. '*r. !ecker, wait here, please.+ '(hat/s the problem)+ !ecker had not e3pected the meeting to take so long, and he was running late for his standing -aturda afternoon s;uash match. The guard shrugged. '.ead of 1r pto wants a word. -he/s on her wa out now.+ 5She67 !ecker laughed. .e had et to see a female inside the 7-A. 'Is that a problem for ou)+ a woman/s voice asked from behind him. !ecker turned and immediatel felt himself flush. .e e ed the I& card on the woman/s blouse. The head of the 7-A/s 1r ptograph &ivision was not onl a woman, but an attractive woman at that. '7o,+ !ecker fumbled. 'I 0ust5+ '-usan $letcher.+ The woman smiled, holding out her slender hand. !ecker took it. '&avid !ecker.+ '1ongratulations, *r. !ecker. I hear ou did a fine 0ob toda . *ight I chat with ou about it)+ !ecker hesitated. 'Actuall , I/m in a bit of a rush at the moment.+ .e hoped spurning the world/s most powerful intelligence agenc wasn/t a foolish act, but his s;uash match started in fort %five minutes, and he had a reputation to upholdC &avid !ecker was never late for s;uash5 class ma be, but ne.er s;uash. 'I/ll be brief.+ -usan $letcher smiled. '<ight this wa , please.+ Ten minutes later, !ecker was in the 7-A/s commissar en0o ing a popover and cranberr 0uice with the 7-A/s lovel head cr ptographer, -usan $letcher. It ;uickl became evident to &avid that the thirt %eight% ear%old/s high%ranking position at the 7-A was no fluke"she was one of the brightest women he had ever met. As the discussed codes and code%breaking, !ecker found himself struggling to keep up"a new and e3citing e3perience for him. An hour later, after !ecker had obviousl missed his s;uash match and -usan had blatantl ignored three pages on the intercom, both of them had to laugh. There the were, two highl anal tical minds, presumabl immune to irrational infatuations"but somehow, while the sat there discussing linguistic morpholog and pseudo"random number generators, the felt like a couple of teenagers"ever thing was fireworks. -usan never did get around to the real reason she/d wanted to speak to &avid !ecker"to offer him a trial post in their Asiatic 1r ptograph &ivision. It was clear from the passion with which the oung professor spoke about teaching that he would never leave the universit . -usan decided not to

ruin the mood b talking business. -he felt like a schoolgirl all over again; nothing was going to spoil it. And nothing did. *** Their courtship was slow and romantic"stolen escapes whenever their schedules permitted, long walks through the 6eorgetown campus, late%night cappuccinos at *erlutti/s, occasional lectures and concerts. -usan found herself laughing more than she/d ever thought possible. It seemed there was nothing &avid couldn/t twist into a 0oke. It was a welcome release from the intensit of her post at the 7-A. #ne crisp, autumn afternoon the sat in the bleachers watching 6eorgetown soccer get pummeled b <utgers. '(hat sport did ou sa ou pla )+ -usan teased. 'Nucchini)+ !ecker groaned. 'It/s called s,uash .+ -he gave him a dumb look. 'It/s !i&e zucchini,+ he e3plained, 'but the court/s smaller.+ -usan pushed him. 6eorgetown/s left wing sent a corner%kick sailing out of bounds, and a boo went up from the crowd. The defensemen hurried back downfield. '.ow about ou)+ !ecker asked. 'Pla an sports)+ 'I/m a black belt in -tairmaster.+ !ecker cringed. 'I prefer sports ou can win.+ -usan smiled. '#verachiever, are we)+ 6eorgetown/s star defenseman blocked a pass, and there was a communal cheer in the stands. -usan leaned over and whispered in &avid/s ear. '&octor.+ .e turned and e ed her, lost. '&octor,+ she repeated. '-a the first thing that comes to mind.+ !ecker looked doubtful. '(ord associations)+ '-tandard 7-A procedure. I need to know who I/m with.+ -he e ed him sternl . '&octor.+ !ecker shrugged. '-euss.+ -usan gave him a frown. '#ka , tr this one5 Ekitchen./ ' .e didn/t hesitate. '!edroom.+ -usan arched her e ebrows co l . '#ka , how about this5 Ecat./ ' '6ut,+ !ecker fired back. '6ut)+ '4eah. 1atgut. -;uash rac;uet string of champions.+ 'That/s pleasant.+ -he groaned. '4our diagnosis)+ !ecker in;uired. -usan thought a minute. '4ou/re a childish, se3uall frustrated s;uash fiend.+ !ecker shrugged. '-ounds about right.+ *** It went on like that for weeks. #ver dessert at all%night diners !ecker would ask endless ;uestions. (here had she learned mathematics) .ow did she end up at the 7-A) .ow did she get so captivating)

-usan blushed and admitted she/d been a late bloomer. ,ank and awkward with braces through her late teens, -usan said her Aunt 1lara had once told her 6od/s apolog for -usan/s plainness was to give her brains. A premature apolog , !ecker thought. -usan e3plained that her interest in cr ptograph had started in 0unior high school. The president of the computer club, a towering eighth grader named $rank 6utmann, t ped her a love poem and encr pted it with a number%substitution scheme. -usan begged to know what it said. $rank flirtatiousl refused. -usan took the code home and sta ed up all night with a flashlight under her covers until she figured out the secret"ever number represented a letter. -he carefull deciphered the code and watched in wonder as the seemingl random digits turned magicall into beautiful poetr . In that instant, she knew she/d fallen in love"codes and cr ptograph would become her life. Almost twent ears later, after getting her master/s in mathematics from ?ohns .opkins and stud ing number theor on a full scholarship from *IT, she submitted her doctoral thesis, 9ryptographi Methods, Proto o!s, and A!gorithms for Manua! App!i ations. Apparentl her professor was not the onl one who read it; shortl afterward, -usan received a phone call and a plane ticket from the 7-A. Ever one in cr ptograph knew about the 7-A; it was home to the best cr ptographic minds on the planet. Each spring, as the private%sector firms descended on the brightest new minds in the workforce and offered obscene salaries and stock options, the 7-A watched carefull , selected their targets, and then simpl stepped in and doubled the best standing offer. (hat the 7-A wanted, the 7-A bought. Trembling with anticipation, -usan flew to (ashington/s &ulles International Airport where she was met b an 7-A driver, who whisked her off to $ort *eade. There were fort %one others who had received the same phone call that ear. At twent %eight, -usan was the oungest. -he was also the onl female. The visit turned out to be more of a public relations bonanza and a barrage of intelligence testing than an informational session. In the week that followed, -usan and si3 others where invited back. Although hesitant, -usan returned. The group was immediatel separated. The underwent individual pol graph tests, background searches, handwriting anal ses, and endless hours of interviews, including taped in;uiries into their se3ual orientations and practices. (hen the interviewer asked -usan if she/d ever engaged in se3 with animals, she almost walked out, but somehow the m ster carried her through"the prospect of working on the cutting edge of code theor , entering 'The Puzzle Palace,+ and becoming a member of the most secretive club in the world"the 7ational -ecurit Agenc . !ecker sat riveted b her stories. 'The actuall asked ou if ou/d had se3 with animals)+ -usan shrugged. 'Part of the routine background check.+ '(ell5+ !ecker fought off a grin. '(hat did ou sa )+ -he kicked him under the table. 'I told them no2+ Then she added, 'And until last night, it was true.+ *** In -usan/s e es, &avid was as close to perfect as she could imagine. .e onl had one unfortunate ;ualit ; ever time the went out, he insisted on picking up the check. -usan hated seeing him la down a full da /s salar on dinner for two, but !ecker was immovable. -usan learned not to protest, but it still bothered her. 8 ma&e more money than 8 &no$ $hat to do $ith, she thought. 8 shou!d be paying. 7onetheless, -usan decided that aside from &avid/s outdated sense of chivalr , he was ideal. .e was compassionate, smart, funn , and best of all, he had a sincere interest in her work. (hether it was during trips to the -mithsonian, bike rides, or burning spaghetti in -usan/s kitchen, &avid was perpetuall curious. -usan answered what ;uestions she could and gave &avid the general, unclassified overview of the 7ational -ecurit Agenc . (hat &avid heard enthralled him.

$ounded b President Truman at @=C9@ a.m. on 7ovember L, @K>=, the 7-A had been the most clandestine intelligence agenc in the world for almost fift ears. The 7-A/s seven%page inception doctrine laid out a ver concise agendaC to protect D.-. government communications and to intercept the communications of foreign powers. The roof of the 7-A/s main operations building was littered with over five hundred antennas, including two large radomes that looked like enormous golf balls. The building itself was mammoth"over two million s;uare feet, twice the size of 1IA head;uarters. Inside were eight million feet of telephone wire and eight thousand s;uare feet of permanentl sealed windows. -usan told &avid about 1#*I7T, the agenc /s global reconnaissance division"a mind%boggling collection of listening posts, satellites, spies, and wiretaps around the globe. Thousands of communi;uOs and conversations were intercepted ever da , and the were all sent to the 7-A/s anal sts for decr ption. The $!I, 1IA, and D.-. foreign polic advisors all depended on the 7-A/s intelligence to make their decisions. !ecker was mesmerized. 'And code%breaking) (here do you fit in)+ -usan e3plained how the intercepted transmissions often originated from dangerous governments, hostile factions, and terrorist groups, man of whom were inside D.-. borders. Their communications were usuall encoded for secrec in case the ended up in the wrong hands"which, thanks to 1#*I7T, the usuall did. -usan told &avid her 0ob was to stud the codes, break them b hand, and furnish the 7-A with the deciphered messages. This was not entirel true. -usan felt a pang of guilt over l ing to her new love, but she had no choice. A few ears ago it would have been accurate, but things had changed at the 7-A. The whole world of cr ptograph had changed. -usan/s new duties were classified, even to man in the highest echelons of power. '1odes,+ !ecker said, fascinated. '.ow do ou know where to start) I mean5 how do ou break them)+ -usan smiled. '4ou of all people should know. It/s like stud ing a foreign language. At first the te3t looks like gibberish, but as ou learn the rules defining its structure, ou can start to e3tract meaning.+ !ecker nodded, impressed. .e wanted to know more. (ith *erlutti/s napkins and concert programs as her chalkboard, -usan set out to give her charming new pedagogue a mini course in cr ptograph . -he began with ?ulius 1aesar/s 'perfect s;uare+ cipher bo3. 1aesar, she e3plained, was the first code%writer in histor . (hen his foot%messengers started getting ambushed and his secret communi;uOs stolen, he devised a rudimentar wa to encr pt this directives. .e rearranged the te3t of his messages such that the correspondence looked senseless. #f course, it was not. Each message alwa s had a letter%count that was a perfect s;uare"si3teen, twent %five, one hundred"depending on how much 1aesar needed to sa . .e secretl informed his officers that when a random message arrived, the should transcribe the te3t into a s;uare grid. If the did, and read top%to%bottom, a secret message would magicall appear. #ver time 1aesar/s concept of rearranging te3t was adopted b others and modified to become more difficult to break. The pinnacle of non computer%based encr ption came during (orld (ar II. The 7azis built a baffling encr ption machine named Enigma. The device resembled an old%fashioned t pewriter with brass interlocking rotors that revolved in intricate wa s and shuffled clearte3t into confounding arra s of seemingl senseless character groupings. #nl b having another Enigma machine, calibrated the e3act same wa , could the recipient break the code. !ecker listened, spellbound. The teacher had become the student. #ne night, at a universit performance of The #ut ra &er, -usan gave &avid his first basic code to break. .e sat through the entire intermission, pen in hand, puzzling over the eleven%letter messageC
., $GN1 :& ,&-

$inall , 0ust as the lights dimmed for the second half, he got it. To encode, -usan had simpl replaced each letter of her message with the letter preceding it in the alphabet. To decr pt the code, all !ecker had to do was shift each letter one space forward in the alphabet"+A+ became '!,+ '!+ became '1,+ and so on. .e ;uickl shifted the remaining letters. .e never imagined four little s llables could make him so happ C
I* 6,A& (E *ET

.e ;uickl scrawled his response and handed it to herC


,& -77

-usan read it and beamed. !ecker had to laugh; he was thirt %five ears%old, and his heart was doing back flips. .e/d never been so attracted to a woman in his life. .er delicate European features and soft brown e es reminded him of an ad for EstOe ,auder. If -usan/s bod had been lank and awkward as a teenager, it sure wasn/t now. -omewhere along the wa , she had developed a willow grace"slender and tall with full, firm breasts and a perfectl flat abdomen. &avid often 0oked that she was the first swimsuit model he/d ever met with a doctorate in applied mathematics and number theor . As the months passed, the both started to suspect the /d found something that could last a lifetime. The /d been together almost two ears when, out of the blue, &avid proposed to her. It was on a weekend trip to the -mok *ountains. The were l ing on a big canop bed at -tone *anor. .e had no ring"he 0ust blurted it out. That/s what she loved about him"he was so spontaneous. -he kissed him long and hard. .e took her in his arms and slipped off her nightgown. 'I/ll take that as a es,+ he said, and the made love all night b the warmth of the fire. That magical evening had been si3 months ago"before &avid/s une3pected promotion to chairman of the *odern ,anguage &epartment. Their relationship had been in a downhill slide ever since.

Chapter 4
The cr pto door beeped once, waking -usan from her depressing reverie. The door had rotated past its full open position and would be closed again in five seconds, having made a complete F89%degree rotation. -usan gathered her thoughts and stepped through the opening. A computer made note of her entr . Although she had practicall lived in 1r pto since its completion three ears ago, the sight of it still amazed her. The main room was an enormous circular chamber that rose five stories. Its transparent, domed ceiling towered @=9 feet at its central peak. The Ple3iglas cupola was embedded with a pol carbonate mesh"a protective web capable of withstanding a two%megaton blast. The screen filtered the sunlight into delicate lacework across the walls. Tin particles of dust drifted upward in wide unsuspecting spirals"captives of the dome/s powerful deionizing s stem. The room/s sloping sides arched broadl at the top and then became almost vertical as the approached e e level. Then the became subtl translucent and graduated to an opa;ue black as the reached the floor"a shimmering e3panse of polished black tile that shone with an eerie luster, giving one the unsettling sensation that the floor was transparent. !lack ice. Pushing through the center of the floor like the tip of a colossal torpedo was the machine for which the dome had been built. Its sleek black contour arched twent %three feet in the air before

plunging back into the floor below. 1urved and smooth, it was as if an enormous killer whale had been frozen mid breach in a frigid sea. This was T<A7-,T<, the single most e3pensive piece of computing e;uipment in the world" a machine the 7-A swore did not e3ist. ,ike an iceberg, the machine hid K9 percent of its mass and power deep beneath the surface. Its secret was locked in a ceramic silo that went si3 stories straight down"a rocketlike hull surrounded b a winding maze of catwalks, cables, and hissing e3haust from the freon cooling s stem. The power generators at the bottom droned in a perpetual low%fre;uenc hum that gave the acoustics in 1r pto a dead, ghostlike ;ualit . *** T<A7-,T<, like all great technological advancements, had been a child of necessit . &uring the @KJ9s, the 7-A witnessed a revolution in telecommunications that would change the world of intelligence reconnaissance forever"public access to the Internet. *ore specificall , the arrival of E%mail. 1riminals, terrorists, and spies had grown tired of having their phones tapped and immediatel embraced this new means of global communication. E%mail had the securit of conventional mail and the speed of the telephone. -ince the transfers traveled through underground fiber%optic lines and were never transmitted into the airwaves, the were entirel intercept%proof"at least that was the perception. In realit , intercepting E%mail as it zipped across the Internet was child/s pla for the 7-A/s techno%gurus. The Internet was not the new home computer revelation that most believed. It had been created b the &epartment of &efense three decades earlier"an enormous network of computers designed to provide secure government communication in the event of nuclear war. The e es and ears of the 7-A were old Internet pros. People conducting illegal business via E%mail ;uickl learned their secrets were not as private as the /d thought. The $!I, &EA, I<-, and other D.-. law enforcement agencies"aided b the 7-A/s staff of wil hackers"en0o ed a tidal wave of arrests and convictions. #f course, when the computer users of the world found out the D.-. government had open access to their E%mail communications, a cr of outrage went up. Even pen pals, using E%mail for nothing more than recreational correspondence, found the lack of privac unsettling. Across the globe, entrepreneurial programmers began working on a wa to keep E%mail more secure. The ;uickl found one and public%ke encr ption was born. Public%ke encr ption was a concept as simple as it was brilliant. It consisted of eas %to%use, home%computer software that scrambled personal E%mail messages in such a wa that the were totall unreadable. A user could write a letter and run it through the encr ption software, and the te3t would come out the other side looking like random nonsense"totall illegible"a code. An one intercepting the transmission found onl an unreadable garble on the screen. The onl wa to unscramble the message was to enter the sender/s 'pass%ke +"a secret series of characters that functioned much like a PI7 number at an automatic teller. The pass%ke s were generall ;uite long and comple3; the carried all the information necessar to instruct the encr ption algorithm e3actl what mathematical operations to follow tore%create the original message. A user could now send E%mail in confidence. Even if the transmission was intercepted, onl those who were given the ke could ever decipher it. The 7-A felt the crunch immediatel . The codes the were facing were no longer simple substitution ciphers crackable with pencil and graph paper"the were computer%generated hash functions that emplo ed chaos theor and multiple s mbolic alphabets to scramble messages into seemingl hopeless randomness.

At first, the pass%ke s being used were short enough for the 7-A/s computers to 'guess.+ If a desired pass%ke had ten digits, a computer was programmed to tr ever possibilit between 9999999999 and KKKKKKKKKK. -ooner or later the computer hit the correct se;uence. This method of trial%and%error guessing was known as 'brute force attack.+ It was time%consuming but mathematicall guaranteed to work. As the world got wise to the power of brute%force code%breaking, the pass%ke s started getting longer and longer. The computer time needed to 'guess+ the correct ke grew from weeks to months and finall to ears. ! the @KK9s, pass%ke s were over fift characters long and emplo ed the full =>8%character A-1II alphabet of letters, numbers, and s mbols. The number of different possibilities was in the neighborhood of @9@=9"ten with @=9 zeros after it. 1orrectl guessing a pass%ke was as mathematicall unlikel as choosing the correct grain of sand from a three%mile beach. It was estimated that a successful brute%force attack on a standard si3t %four%bit ke would take the 7-A/s fastest computer"the top%secret 1ra H?osephson II"over nineteen ears to break. ! the time the computer guessed the ke and broke the code, the contents of the message would be irrelevant. 1aught in a virtual intelligence blackout, the 7-A passed a top%secret directive that was endorsed b the President of the Dnited -tates. !uo ed b federal funds and a carte blanche to do whatever was necessar to solve the problem, the 7-A set out to build the impossibleC the world/s first universal code%breaking machine. &espite the opinion of man engineers that the newl proposed code%breaking computer was impossible to build, the 7-A lived b its mottoC Ever thing is possible. The impossible 0ust takes longer. $ive ears, half a million man%hours, and M@.K billion later, the 7-A proved it once again. The last of the three million, stamp%size processors was hand%soldered in place, the final internal programming was finished, and the ceramic shell was welded shut. T<A7-,T< had been born. Although the secret internal workings of T<A7-,T< were the product of man minds and were not full understood b an one individual, its basic principle was simpleC *an hands make light work. Its three million processors would all work in parallel"counting upward at blinding speed, tr ing ever new permutation as the went. The hope was that even codes with unthinkabl colossal pass%ke s would not be safe from T<A7-,T</s tenacit . This multibillion%dollar masterpiece would use the power of parallel processing as well as some highl classified advances in clear te3t assessment to guess pass%ke s and break codes. It would derive its power not onl from its staggering number of processors but also from new advances in ;uantum computing"an emerging technolog that allowed information to be stored as ;uantum%mechanical states rather than solel as binar data. The moment of truth came on a bluster Thursda morning in #ctober. The first live test. &espite uncertaint about how fast the machine would be, there was one thing on which the engineers agreed"if the processors all functioned in parallel, T<A7-,T< would be powerful. The ;uestion was ho$ powerful. The answer came twelve minutes later. There was a stunned silence from the handful in attendance when the printout sprang to life and delivered the clearte3t"the broken code. T<A7-,T< had 0ust located a si3t %four%character ke in a little over ten minutes, almost a million times faster than the two decades it would have taken the 7-A/s second%fastest computer. ,ed b the deput director of operations, 1ommander Trevor ?. -trathmore, the 7-A/s #ffice of Production had triumphed. T<A7-,T< was a success. In the interest of keeping their success a secret, 1ommander -trathmore immediatel leaked information that the pro0ect had been a complete failure. All the activit in the 1r pto wing was supposedl an attempt to salvage their M= billion fiasco. #nl the 7-A elite knew the truth"T<A7-,T< was cracking hundreds of codes ever da . (ith word on the street that computer%encr pted codes were entirel unbreakable"even b the all%powerful 7-A"the secrets poured in. &rug lords, terrorists, and embezzlers alike"wear of

having their cellular phone transmissions intercepted"were turning to the e3citing new medium of encr pted E%mail for instantaneous global communications. 7ever again would the have to face a grand 0ur and hear their own voice rolling off tape, proof of some long%forgotten cellular phone conversation plucked from the air b an 7-A satellite. Intelligence gathering had never been easier. 1odes intercepted b the 7-A entered T<A7-,T< as totall illegible ciphers and were spit out minutes later as perfectl readable clearte3t. 7o more secrets. To make their charade of incompetence complete, the 7-A lobbied fiercel against all new computer encr ption software, insisting it crippled them and made it impossible for lawmakers to catch and prosecute the criminals. 1ivil rights groups re0oiced, insisting the 7-A shouldn/t be reading their mail an wa . Encr ption software kept rolling off the presses. The 7-A had lost the battle"e3actl as it had planned. The entire electronic global communit had been fooled5 or so it seemed.

Chapter 5
'(here is ever one)+ -usan wondered as she crossed the deserted 1r pto floor. Some emergen y. Although most 7-A departments were full staffed seven da s a week, 1r pto was generall ;uiet on -aturda s. 1r ptographic mathematicians were b nature high%strung workaholics, and there e3isted an unwritten rule that the take -aturda s off e3cept in emergencies. 1ode%breakers were too valuable a commodit at the 7-A to risk losing them to burnout. As -usan traversed the floor, T<A7-,T< loomed to her right. The sound of the generators eight stories below sounded oddl ominous toda . -usan never liked being in 1r pto during off hours. It was like being trapped alone in a cage with some grand, futuristic beast. -he ;uickl made her wa toward the commander/s office. -trathmore/s glass%walled workstation, nicknamed 'the fishbowl+ for its appearance when the drapes were open, stood high atop a set of catwalk stairs on the back wall of 1r pto. As -usan climbed the grated steps, she gazed upward at -trathmore/s thick, oak door. It bore the 7-A seal"a bald eagle fiercel clutching an ancient skeleton ke . !ehind that door sat one of the greatest men she/d ever met. 1ommander -trathmore, the fift %si3% ear%old deput director of operations, was like a father to -usan. .e was the one who/d hired her, and he was the one who/d made the 7-A her home. (hen -usan 0oined the 7-A over a decade ago, -trathmore was heading the 1r pto &evelopment &ivision"a training ground for new cr ptographers"new ma!e cr ptographers. Although -trathmore never tolerated the hazing of an one, he was especiall protective of his sole female staff member. (hen accused of favoritism, he simpl replied with the truthC -usan $letcher was one of the brightest oung recruits he/d ever seen, and he had no intention of losing her to se3ual harassment. #ne of the cr ptographers foolishl decided to test -trathmore/s resolve. #ne morning during her first ear, -usan dropped b the new cr ptographers/ lounge to get some paperwork. As she left, she noticed a picture of herself on the bulletin board. -he almost fainted in embarrassment. There she was, reclining on a bed and wearing onl panties. As it turned out, one of the cr ptographers had digitall scanned a photo from a pornographic magazine and edited -usan/s head onto someone else/s bod . The effect had been ;uite convincing. Dnfortunatel for the cr ptographer responsible, 1ommander -trathmore did not find the stunt even remotel amusing. Two hours later, a landmark memo went outC
E*P,#4EE 1#7&D1T. 1A<, AD-TI7 TE<*I7ATE& $#< I7APP<#P<IATE

$rom that da on, nobod messed with her; -usan $letcher was 1ommander -trathmore/s golden girl. !ut -trathmore/s oung cr ptographers were not the onl ones who learned to respect him; earl in his career -trathmore made his presence known to his superiors b proposing a number of unorthodo3 and highl successful intelligence operations. As he moved up the ranks, Trevor -trathmore became known for his cogent, reductive anal ses of highl comple3 situations. .e seemed to have an uncann abilit to see past the moral perple3ities surrounding the 7-A/s difficult decisions and to act without remorse in the interest of the common good. There was no doubt in an one/s mind that -trathmore loved his countr . .e was known to his colleagues as a patriot and a visionar 5 a decent man in a world of lies. In the ears since -usan/s arrival at the 7-A, -trathmore had sk rocketed from head of 1r pto &evelopment to second%in%command of the entire 7-A. 7ow onl one man outranked 1ommander -trathmore there"&irector ,eland $ontaine, the m thical overlord of the Puzzle Palace"never seen, occasionall heard, and eternall feared. .e and -trathmore seldom saw e e to e e, and when the met, it was like the clash of the titans. $ontaine was a giant among giants, but -trathmore didn/t seem to care. .e argued his ideas to the director with all the restraint of an impassioned bo3er. 7ot even the President of the Dnited -tates dared challenge $ontaine the wa -trathmore did. #ne needed political immunit to do that"or, in -trathmore/s case, political indifference. *** -usan arrived at the top of the stairs. !efore she could knock, -trathmore/s electronic door lock buzzed. The door swung open, and the commander waved her in. 'Thanks for coming, -usan. I owe ou one.+ '7ot at all.+ -he smiled as she sat opposite his desk. -trathmore was a rang , thick%fleshed man whose muted features somehow disguised his hard%nosed efficienc and demand for perfection. .is gra e es usuall suggested a confidence and discretion born from e3perience, but toda the looked wild and unsettled. '4ou look beat,+ -usan said. 'I/ve been better.+ -trathmore sighed. 8!! say, she thought. -trathmore looked as bad as -usan had ever seen him. .is thinning gra hair was disheveled, and even in the room/s crisp air%conditioning, his forehead was beaded with sweat. .e looked like he/d slept in his suit. .e was sitting behind a modern desk with two recessed ke pads and a computer monitor at one end. It was strewn with computer printouts and looked like some sort of alien cockpit propped there in the center of his curtained chamber. 'Tough week)+ she in;uired. -trathmore shrugged. 'The usual. The E$$/s all over me about civilian privac rights again.+ -usan chuckled. The E$$, or Electronics $rontier $oundation, was a worldwide coalition of computer users who had founded a powerful civil liberties coalition aimed at supporting free speech on%line and educating others to the realities and dangers of living in an electronic world. The were constantl lobb ing against what the called 'the #rwellian eavesdropping capabilities of government agencies+"particularl the 7-A. The E$$ was a perpetual thorn in -trathmore/s side. '-ounds like business as usual,+ she said. '-o what/s this big emergenc ou got me out of the tub for)+ -trathmore sat a moment, absentl fingering the computer trackball embedded in his desktop. After a long silence, he caught -usan/s gaze and held it. '(hat/s the longest ou/ve ever seen T<A7-,T< take to break a code)+ The ;uestion caught -usan entirel off guard. It seemed meaningless. This is $hat he a!!ed me in for6

'(ell5+ -he hesitated. '(e hit a 1#*I7T intercept a few months ago that took about an hour, but it had a ridiculousl long ke "ten thousand bits or something like that.+ -trathmore grunted. 'An hour, huh) (hat about some of the boundar probes we/ve run)+ -usan shrugged. '(ell, if ou include diagnostics, it/s obviousl longer.+ '.ow mu h longer)+ -usan couldn/t imagine what -trathmore was getting at. '(ell, sir, I tried an algorithm last *arch with a segmented million%bit ke . Illegal looping functions, cellular automata, the works. T<A7-,T< still broke it.+ '.ow long)+ 'Three hours.+ -trathmore arched his e ebrows. 'Three hours) That long)+ -usan frowned, mildl offended. .er 0ob for the last three ears had been to fine%tune the most secret computer in the world; most of the programming that made T<A7-,T< so fast was hers. A million%bit ke was hardl a realistic scenario. '#ka ,+ -trathmore said. '-o even in e3treme conditions, the longest a code has ever survived inside T<A7-,T< is about three hours)+ -usan nodded. '4eah. *ore or less.+ -trathmore paused as if afraid to sa something he might regret. $inall he looked up. 'T<A7-,T</s hit something5+ .e stopped. -usan waited. '*ore than three hours)+ -trathmore nodded. -he looked unconcerned. 'A new diagnostic) -omething from the - s%-ec &epartment)+ -trathmore shook his head. 'It/s an outside file.+ -usan waited for the punch line, but it never came. 'An outside file) 4ou/re 0oking, right)+ 'I wish. I ;ueued it last night around eleven thirt . It hasn/t broken et.+ -usan/s 0aw dropped. -he looked at her watch and then back at -trathmore. 'It/s sti!! going) #ver fifteen hours)+ -trathmore leaned forward and rotated his monitor toward -usan. The screen was black e3cept for a small, ellow te3t bo3 blinking in the middle.
TI*E E,AP-E&C @>C9KCFF

A(AITI76 GE4C PPPPPPPP

-usan stared in amazement. It appeared T<A7-,T< had been working on one code for over fifteen hours. -he knew the computer/s processors auditioned thirt million ke s per second"one hundred billion per hour. If T<A7-,T< was still counting, that meant the ke had to be enormous" over ten billion digits long. It was absolute insanit . 'It/s impossible2+ she declared. '.ave ou checked for error flags) *a be T<A7-,T< hit a glitch and"+ 'The run/s clean.+ '!ut the pass%ke must be huge2+ -trathmore shook his head. '-tandard commercial algorithm. I/m guessing a si3t %four%bit ke .+ * stified, -usan looked out the window at T<A7-,T< below. -he knew from e3perience that it could locate a si3t %four%bit ke in under ten minutes. 'There/s got to be some e3planation.+ -trathmore nodded. 'There is. 4ou/re not going to like it.+ -usan looked uneas . 'Is T<A7-,T< malfunctioning)+ 'T<A7-,T</s fine.+

'.ave we got a virus)+ -trathmore shook his head. '7o virus. ?ust hear me out.+ -usan was flabbergasted. T<A7-,T< had never hit a code it couldn/t break in under an hour. Dsuall the clearte3t was delivered to -trathmore/s printout module within minutes. -he glanced at the high%speed printer behind his desk. It was empt . '-usan,+ -trathmore said ;uietl . 'This is going to be hard to accept at first, but 0ust listen a minute.+ .e chewed his lip. 'This code that T<A7-,T</s working on"it/s uni;ue. It/s like nothing we/ve ever seen before.+ -trathmore paused, as if the words were hard for him to sa . 'This code is unbreakable.+ -usan stared at him and almost laughed. :nbrea&ab!e6 (hat $as T<AT supposed to mean6 There was no such thing as an unbreakable code"some took longer than others, but ever code was breakable. It was mathematicall guaranteed that sooner or later T<A7-,T< would guess the right ke . 'I beg our pardon)+ 'The code/s unbreakable,+ he repeated flatl . :nbrea&ab!e6 -usan couldn/t believe the word had been uttered b a man with twent %seven ears of code anal sis e3perience. 'Dnbreakable, sir)+ she said uneasil . '(hat about the !ergofsk Principle)+ -usan had learned about the !ergofsk Principle earl in her career. It was a cornerstone of brute%force technolog . It was also -trathmore/s inspiration for building T<A7-,T<. The principle clearl stated that if a computer tried enough ke s, it was mathematicall guaranteed to find the right one. A code/s securit was not that its pass%ke was unfindable but rather that most people didn/t have the time or e;uipment to tr . -trathmore shook his head. 'This code/s different.+ '&ifferent)+ -usan e ed him askance. An unbreakable code is a mathematical impossibilit 2 .e knows that2 -trathmore ran a hand across his sweat scalp. 'This code is the product of a brand%new encr ption algorithm"one we/ve never seen before.+ 7ow -usan was even more doubtful. Encr ption algorithms were 0ust mathematical formulas, recipes for scrambling te3t into code. *athematicians and programmers created new algorithms ever da . There were hundreds of them on the market"P6P, &iffie%.ellman, NIP, I&EA, El 6amal. T<A7-,T< broke all of their codes ever da , no problem. To T<A7-,T< all codes looked identical, regardless of which algorithm wrote them. 'I don/t understand,+ she argued. '(e/re not talking about reverse%engineering some comple3 function, we/re talking brute force. P6P, ,ucifer, &-A"it doesn/t matter. The algorithm generates a ke it thinks is secure, and T<A7-,T< keeps guessing until it finds it.+ -trathmore/s repl had the controlled patience of a good teacher. '4es, -usan, T<A7-,T< will a!$ays find the ke "even if it/s huge.+ .e paused a long moment. 'Dnless5+ -usan wanted to speak, but it was clear -trathmore was about to drop his bomb. :n!ess $hat6 'Dnless the computer doesn/t know when it/s broken the code.+ -usan almost fell out of her chair. '(hat2+ 'Dnless the computer guesses the correct ke but 0ust keeps guessing because it doesn/t realize it found the right ke .+ -trathmore looked bleak. 'I think this algorithm has got a rotating clearte3t.+ -usan gaped. The notion of a rotating clearte3t function was first put forth in an obscure, @KJA paper b a .ungarian mathematician, ?osef .arne. !ecause brute%force computers broke codes b e3amining clearte3t for identifiable word patterns, .arne proposed an encr ption algorithm that, in addition to encr pting, shifted decr pted clearte3t over a time variant. In theor , the perpetual mutation would ensure that the attacking computer would never locate recognizable word patterns and thus never know when it had found the proper ke . The concept was somewhat like the idea of colonizing *ars"fathomable on an intellectual level, but, at present, well be ond human abilit . '(here did ou get this thing)+ she demanded.

The commander/s response was slow. 'A public sector programmer wrote it.+ '(hat)+ -usan collapsed back in her chair. '(e/ve got the best programmers in the world downstairs2 All of us working together have never even come !ose to writing a rotating clearte3t function. Are ou tr ing to tell me some punk with a P1 figured out how to do it)+ -trathmore lowered his voice in an apparent effort to calm her. 'I wouldn/t call this gu a punk.+ -usan wasn/t listening. -he was convinced there had to be some other e3planationC A glitch. A virus. An thing was more likel than an unbreakable code. -trathmore e ed her sternl . '#ne of the most brilliant cr ptographic minds of all time wrote this algorithm.+ -usan was more doubtful than ever; the most brilliant cr ptographic minds of all time were in her department, and she certainl would have heard about an algorithm like this. '(ho)+ she demanded. 'I/m sure ou can guess.+ -trathmore said. '.e/s not too fond of the 7-A.+ '(ell, that narrows it down2+ she snapped sarcasticall . '.e worked on the T<A7-,T< pro0ect. .e broke the rules. Almost caused an intelligence nightmare. I deported him.+ -usan/s face was blank onl an instant before going white. '#h m 6od5+ -trathmore nodded. '.e/s been bragging all ear about his work on a brute%force"resistant algorithm.+ '!%but5+ -usan stammered. 'I thought he was bluffing. .e actuall did it)+ '.e did. The ultimate unbreakable code%writer.+ -usan was silent a long moment. '!ut5 that means5+ -trathmore looked her dead in the e e. '4es. Ensei Tankado 0ust made T<A7-,T< obsolete.+

Chapter 6
Although Ensei Tankado was not alive during the -econd (orld (ar, he carefull studied ever thing about it"particularl about its culminating event, the blast in which @99,999 of his countr men where incinerated b an atomic bomb. .iroshima, JC@> a.m. August 8, @KL>"a vile act of destruction. A senseless displa of power b a countr that had alread won the war. Tankado had accepted all that. !ut what he could never accept was that the bomb had robbed him of ever knowing his mother. -he had died giving birth to him"complications brought on b the radiation poisoning she/d suffered so man ears earlier. In @KL>, before Ensei was born, his mother, like man of her friends, traveled to .iroshima to volunteer in the burn centers. It was there that she became one of the hibakusha"the radiated people. 7ineteen ears later, at the age of thirt %si3, as she la in the deliver room bleeding internall , she knew she was finall going to die. (hat she did not know was that death would spare her the final horror"her onl child was to be born deformed. Ensei/s father never even saw his son. !ewildered b the loss of his wife and shamed b the arrival of what the nurses told him was an imperfect child who probabl would not survive the night, he disappeared from the hospital and never came back. Ensei Tankado was placed in a foster home. Ever night the oung Tankado stared down at the twisted fingers holding his daruma wish%doll and swore he/d have revenge"revenge against the countr that had stolen his mother and shamed his father into abandoning him. (hat he didn/t know was that destin was about to intervene. In $ebruar of Ensei/s twelfth ear, a computer manufacturer in Tok o called his foster famil and asked if their crippled child might take part in a test group for a new ke board the /d developed for handicapped children. .is famil agreed. Although Ensei Tankado had never seen a computer, it seemed he instinctivel knew how to use it. The computer opened worlds he had never imagined possible. !efore long it became his

entire life. As he got older, he gave classes, earned mone , and eventuall earned a scholarship to &oshisha Dniversit . -oon Ensei Tankado was known across Tok o as fugusha &isai "the crippled genius. Tankado eventuall read about Pearl .arbor and ?apanese war crimes. .is hatred of America slowl faded. .e became a devout !uddhist. .e forgot his childhood vow of revenge; forgiveness was the onl path to enlightenment. ! the time he was twent , Ensei Tankado was somewhat of an underground cult figure among programmers. I!* offered him a work visa and a post in Te3as. Tankado 0umped at the chance. Three ears later he had left I!*, was living in 7ew 4ork, and was writing software on his own. .e rode the new wave of public%ke encr ption. .e wrote algorithms and made a fortune. ,ike man of the top authors of encr ption algorithms, Tankado was courted b the 7-A. The iron was not lost on him"the opportunit to work in the heart of the government in a countr he had once vowed to hate. .e decided to go on the interview. (hatever doubts he had disappeared when he met 1ommander -trathmore. The talked frankl about Tankado/s background, the potential hostilit he might feel toward the D.-., his plans for the future. Tankado took a pol graph test and underwent five weeks of rigorous ps chological profiles. .e passed them all. .is hatred had been replaced b his devotion to !uddha. $our months later Ensei Tankado went to work in the 1r ptograph &epartment of the 7ational -ecurit Agenc . &espite his large salar , Tankado went to work on an old *oped and ate a bag lunch alone at his desk instead of 0oining the rest of the department for prime rib and vich ssoise in the commissar . The other cr ptographers revered him. .e was brilliant"as creative a programmer as an of them had ever seen. .e was kind and honest, ;uiet, and of impeccable ethics. *oral integrit was of paramount importance to him. It was for this reason that his dismissal from the 7-A and subse;uent deportation had been such a shock. *** Tankado, like the rest of the 1r pto staff, had been working on the T<A7-,T< pro0ect with the understanding that if successful, it would be used to decipher E%mail onl in cases pre%approved b the ?ustice &epartment. The 7-A/s use of T<A7-,T< was to be regulated in much the same wa the $!I needed a federal court order to install a wiretap. T<A7-,T< was to include programming that called for passwords held in escrow b the $ederal <eserve and the ?ustice &epartment in order to decipher a file. This would prevent the 7-A from listening indiscriminatel to the personal communications of law%abiding citizens around the globe. .owever, when the time came to enter that programming, the T<A7-,T< staff was told there had been a change of plans. !ecause of the time pressures often associated with the 7-A/s anti%terrorist work, T<A7-,T< was to be a free%standing decr ption device whose da %to%da operation would be regulated solel b the 7-A. Ensei Tankado was outraged. This meant the 7-A would, in effect, be able to open ever one/s mail and reseal it without their knowing. It was like having a bug in ever phone in the world. -trathmore attempted to make Tankado see T<A7-,T< as a law%enforcement device, but it was no use; Tankado was adamant that it constituted a gross violation of human rights. .e ;uit on the spot and within hours violated the 7-A/s code of secrec b tr ing to contact the Electronic $rontier $oundation. Tankado stood poised to shock the world with his stor of a secret machine capable of e3posing computer users around the world to unthinkable government treacher . The 7-A had had no choice but to stop him. Tankado/s capture and deportation, widel publicized among on%line newsgroups, had been an unfortunate public shaming. Against -trathmore/s wishes, the 7-A damage%control specialists" nervous that Tankado would tr to convince people of T<A7-,T</s e3istence"generated rumors that destro ed his credibilit . Ensei Tankado was shunned b the global computer communit "

nobod trusted a cripple accused of sp ing, particularl when he was tr ing to bu his freedom with absurd allegations about a D.-. code%breaking machine. The oddest thing of all was that Tankado seemed to understand; it was all part of the intelligence game. .e appeared to harbor no anger, onl resolve. As securit escorted him awa , Tankado spoke his final words to -trathmore with a chilling calm. '(e all have a right to keep secrets,+ he/d said. '-omeda I/ll see to it we can.+

Chapter 7
-usan/s mind was racing"*nsei Tan&ado $rote a program that reates unbrea&ab!e odes4 -he could barel grasp the thought. '&igital $ortress,+ -trathmore said. 'That/s what he/s calling it. It/s the ultimate counterintelligence weapon. If this program hits the market, ever third grader with a modem will be able to send codes the 7-A can/t break. #ur intelligence will be shot.+ !ut -usan/s thoughts were far removed from the political implications of &igital $ortress. -he was still struggling to comprehend its e3istence. -he/d spent her life breaking codes, firml den ing the e3istence of the ultimate code. *.ery ode is brea&ab!e=the +ergofs&y Prin ip!e4 -he felt like an atheist coming face to face with 6od. 'If this code gets out,+ she whispered, 'cr ptograph will become a dead science.+ -trathmore nodded. 'That/s the least of our problems.+ '1an we pa Tankado off) I know he hates us, but can/t we offer him a few million dollars) 1onvince him not to distribute)+ -trathmore laughed. 'A few million) &o ou know what this thing is worth) Ever government in the world will bid top dollar. 1an ou imagine telling the President that we/re still cable%snooping the Ira;is but we can/t read the intercepts an more) This isn/t 0ust about the 7-A, it/s about the entire intelligence communit . This facilit provides support for ever one"the $!I, 1IA, &EA; the /d all be fl ing blind. The drug cartels/ shipments would become untraceable, ma0or corporations could transfer mone with no paper trail and leave the I<- out in the cold, terrorists could chat in total secrec "it would be chaos.+ 'The E$$ will have field da ,+ -usan said, pale. 'The E$$ doesn/t have the first clue about what we do here,+ -trathmore railed in disgust. 'If the knew how man terrorist attacks we/ve stopped because we can decr pt codes, the /d change their tune.+ -usan agreed, but she also knew the realities; the E$$ would never know how important T<A7-,T< was. T<A7-,T< had helped foil dozens of attacks, but the information was highl classified and would never be released. The rationale behind the secrec was simpleC The government could not afford the mass h steria caused b revealing the truth; no one knew how the public would react to the news that there had been two nuclear close calls b fundamentalist groups on D.-. soil in the last ear. 7uclear attack, however, was not the onl threat. #nl last month T<A7-,T< had thwarted one of the most ingeniousl conceived terrorist attacks the 7-A had ever witnessed. An anti%government organization had devised a plan, code%named -herwood $orest. It targeted the 7ew 4ork -tock E3change with the intention of 'redistributing the wealth.+ #ver the course of si3 da s, members of the group placed twent %seven none3plosive flu3 pods in the buildings surrounding the E3change. These devices, when detonated, create a powerful blast of magnetism. The simultaneous discharge of these carefull placed pods would create a magnetic field so powerful that all magnetic media in the -tock E3change would be erased"computer hard drives, massive <#* storage banks, tape backups, and even flopp disks. All records of who owned what would disintegrate permanentl . !ecause pinpoint timing was necessar for simultaneous detonation of the devices, the flu3 pods were interconnected over Internet telephone lines. &uring the two%da countdown, the pods/ internal clocks e3changed endless streams of encr pted s nchronization data. The 7-A intercepted

the data%pulses as a network anomal but ignored them as a seemingl harmless e3change of gibberish. !ut after T<A7-,T< decr pted the data streams, anal sts immediatel recognized the se;uence as a network%s nchronized countdown. The pods were located and removed a full three hours before the were scheduled to go off. -usan knew that without T<A7-,T< the 7-A was helpless against advanced electronic terrorism. -he e ed the <un%*onitor. It still read over fifteen hours. Even if Tankado/s file broke right now, the 7-A was sunk. 1r pto would be relegated to breaking less than two codes a da . Even at the present rate of @>9 a da , there was still a backlog of files awaiting decr ption. *** 'Tankado called me last month,+ -trathmore said, interrupting -usan/s thoughts. -usan looked up. 'Tankado called you67 .e nodded. 'To warn me.+ 5(arn ou) .e hates ou.+ '.e called to tell me he was perfecting an algorithm that wrote unbreakable codes. I didn/t believe him.+ '!ut wh would he tell ou about it)+ -usan demanded. '&id he want ou to bu it)+ '7o. It was blackmail.+ Things suddenl began falling into place for -usan. '#f course,+ she said, amazed. '.e wanted ou to clear his name.+ '7o,+ -trathmore frowned. 'Tankado wanted T<A7-,T<.+ 'T<A7-,T<)+ '4es. .e ordered me to go public and tell the world we have T<A7-,T<. .e said if we admitted we can read public E%mail, he would destro &igital $ortress.+ -usan looked doubtful. -trathmore shrugged. 'Either wa , it/s too late now. .e/s posted a complimentar cop of &igital $ortress at his Internet site. Ever one in the world can download it.+ -usan went white. '.e $hat47 'It/s a publicit stunt. 7othing to worr about. The cop he posted is encr pted. People can download it, but nobod can open it. It/s ingenious, reall . The source code for &igital $ortress has been encr pted, locked shut.+ -usan looked amazed. '#f course2 -o ever bod can ha.e a cop , but nobod can open it.+ 'E3actl . Tankado/s dangling a carrot.+ '.ave ou seen the algorithm)+ The commander looked puzzled. '7o, I told ou it/s encr pted.+ -usan looked e;uall puzzled. '!ut we/ve got T<A7-,T<; wh not 0ust decr pt it)+ !ut when -usan saw -trathmore/s face, she realized the rules had changed. '#h m 6od.+ -he gasped, suddenl understanding. '&igital $ortress is encr pted with itse!f67 -trathmore nodded. '!ingo.+ -usan was amazed. The formula for &igital $ortress had been encr pted using &igital $ortress. Tankado had posted a priceless mathematical recipe, but the te3t of the recipe had been scrambled. And it had used itse!f to do the scrambling. 'It/s !iggleman/s -afe,+ -usan stammered in awe. -trathmore nodded. !iggleman/s -afe was a h pothetical cr ptograph scenario in which a safe builder wrote blueprints for an unbreakable safe. .e wanted to keep the blueprints a secret, so he built the safe and locked the blueprints inside. Tankado had done the same thing with &igital $ortress. .e/d protected his blueprints b encr pting them with the formula outlined in his blueprints. 'And the file in T<A7-,T<)+ -usan asked.

'I downloaded it from Tankado/s Internet site like ever one else. The 7-A is now the proud owner of the &igital $ortress algorithm; we 0ust can/t open it.+ -usan marveled at Ensei Tankado/s ingenuit . (ithout revealing his algorithm, he had proven to the 7-A that it was unbreakable. -trathmore handed her a newspaper clipping. It was a translated blurb from the 7ikkei -himbun, the ?apanese e;uivalent of the (all -treet ?ournal, stating that the ?apanese programmer Ensei Tankado had completed a mathematical formula he claimed could write unbreakable codes. The formula was called &igital $ortress and was available for review on the Internet. The programmer would be auctioning it off to the highest bidder. The column went on to sa that although there was enormous interest in ?apan, the few D.-. software companies who had heard about &igital $ortress deemed the claim preposterous, akin to turning lead to gold. The formula, the said, was a hoa3 and not to be taken seriousl . -usan looked up. 'An auction)+ -trathmore nodded. '<ight now ever software compan in ?apan has downloaded an encr pted cop of &igital $ortress and is tr ing to crack it open. Ever second the can/t, the bidding price climbs.+ 'That/s absurd,+ -usan shot back. 'All the new encr pted files are uncrackable unless ou have T<A7-,T<. &igital $ortress could be nothing more than a generic, public%domain algorithm, and none of these companies could break it.+ '!ut it/s a brilliant marketing plo ,+ -trathmore said. 'Think about it"all brands of bulletproof glass stop bullets, but if a compan dares ou to put a bullet through theirs, suddenl ever bod /s tr ing.+ 'And the ?apanese actuall be!ie.e &igital $ortress is different) !etter than ever thing else on the market)+ 'Tankado ma have been shunned, but ever bod knows he/s a genius. .e/s practicall a cult icon among hackers. If Tankado sa s the algorithm/s unbreakable, it/s unbreakable.+ !ut the /re a!! unbreakable as far as the public knows2+ '4es5+ -trathmore mused. '$or the moment.+ '(hat/s that supposed to mean)+ -trathmore sighed. 'Twent ears ago no one imagined we/d be breaking twelve%bit stream ciphers. !ut technolog progressed. It alwa s does. -oftware manufacturers assume at some point computers like T<A7-,T< will e3ist. Technolog is progressing e3ponentiall , and eventuall current public%ke algorithms will lose their securit . !etter algorithms will be needed to sta ahead of tomorrow/s computers.+ 'And &igital $ortress is it)+ 'E3actl . An algorithm that resists brute force will never become obsolete, no matter how powerful code%breaking computers get. It could become a world standard overnight.+ -usan pulled in a long breath. '6od help us,+ she whispered. '1an we make a bid)+ -trathmore shook his head. 'Tankado gave us our chance. .e made that clear. It/s too risk an wa ; if we get caught, we/re basicall admitting that we/re afraid of his algorithm. (e/d be making a public confession not onl that we have T<A7-,T< but that &igital $ortress is immune.+ '(hat/s the time frame)+ -trathmore frowned. 'Tankado planned to announce the highest bidder tomorrow at noon.+ -usan felt her stomach tighten. 'Then what)+ 'The arrangement was that he would give the winner the pass%ke .+ 'The pass%ke )+ 'Part of the plo . Ever bod /s alread got the algorithm, so Tankado/s auctioning off the pass%ke that unlocks it.+ -usan groaned. '#f course.+ It was perfect. 1lean and simple. Tankado had encr pted &igital $ortress, and he alone held the pass%ke that unlocked it. -he found it hard to fathom that somewhere out there"probabl scrawled on a piece of paper in Tankado/s pocket"there was a si3t %four%character pass%ke that could end D.-. intelligence gathering forever.

-usan suddenl felt ill as she imagined the scenario. Tankado would give his pass%ke to the highest bidder, and that compan would unlock the &igital $ortress file. Then it probabl would embed the algorithm in a tamper%proof chip, and within five ears ever computer would come preloaded with a &igital $ortress chip. 7o commercial manufacturer had ever dreamed of creating an encr ption chip because normal encr ption algorithms eventuall become obsolete. !ut &igital $ortress would never become obsolete; with a rotating clearte3t function, no brute%force attack would ever find the right ke . A new digital encr ption standard. $rom now until forever. Ever code unbreakable. !ankers, brokers, terrorists, spies. #ne world"one algorithm. Anarch . '(hat are the options)+ -usan probed. -he was well aware that desperate times called for desperate measures, even at the 7-A. '(e can/t remove him, if that/s what ou/re asking.+ It was e3actl what -usan was asking. In her ears with the 7-A, -usan had heard rumors of its loose affiliations with the most skilled assassins in the world"hired hands brought in to do the intelligence communit /s dirt work. -trathmore shook his head. 'Tankado/s too smart to leave us an option like that.+ -usan felt oddl relieved. '.e/s protected)+ '7ot e3actl .+ 'In hiding)+ -trathmore shrugged. 'Tankado left ?apan. .e planned to check his bids b phone. !ut we know where he is.+ 'And ou don/t plan to make a move)+ '7o. .e/s got insurance. Tankado gave a cop of his pass%ke to an anon mous third part 5 in case an thing happened.+ )f ourse, -usan marveled. A guardian ange!. 'And I suppose if an thing happens to Tankado, the m ster man sells the ke )+ '(orse. An one hits Tankado, and his partner publishes.+ -usan looked confused. '.is partner pub!ishes the ke )+ -trathmore nodded. 'Posts it on the Internet, puts it in newspapers, on billboards. In effect, he gi.es it awa .+ -usan/s e es widened. '$ree downloads)+ 'E3actl . Tankado figured if he was dead, he wouldn/t need the mone "wh not give the world a little farewell gift)+ There was a long silence. -usan breathed deepl as if to absorb the terrif ing truth. *nsei Tan&ado has reated an unbrea&ab!e a!gorithm. <es ho!ding us hostage. -he suddenl stood. .er voice was determined. '(e must contact Tankado2 There must be a wa to convince him not to release2 (e can offer him triple the highest bid2 (e can clear his name2 An thing2+ 'Too late,+ -trathmore said. .e took a deep breath. 'Ensei Tankado was found dead this morning in -eville, -pain.+

Chapter 8
The twin%engine ,ear0et 89 touched down on the scorching runwa . #utside the window, the barren landscape of -pain/s lower e3tremadura blurred and then slowed to a crawl. '*r. !ecker)+ a voice crackled. '(e/re here.+ !ecker stood and stretched. After unlatching the overhead compartment, he remembered he had no luggage. There had been no time to pack. It didn/t matter"he/d been promised the trip would be brief, in and out. As the engines wound down, the plane eased out of the sun and into a deserted hangar opposite the main terminal. A moment later the pilot appeared and popped the hatch. !ecker tossed back the last of his cranberr 0uice, put the glass on the wet bar, and scooped up his suit coat.

The pilot pulled a thick manila envelope from his flight suit. 'I was instructed to give ou this.+ .e handed it to !ecker. #n the front, scrawled in blue pen, were the wordsC
GEEP T.E 1.A76E.

!ecker thumbed through the thick stack of reddish bills. '(hat the5)+ ',ocal currenc ,+ the pilot offered flatl . 'I know what it is,+ !ecker stammered. '!ut it/s5 it/s too much. All I need is ta3i fare.+ !ecker did the conversion in his head. '(hat/s in here is worth thousands of dollars2+ 'I have m orders, sir.+ The pilot turned and hoisted himself back into the cabin. The door slid shut behind him. !ecker stared up at the plane and then down at the mone in his hand. After standing a moment in the empt hangar, he put the envelope in his breast pocket, shouldered his suit coat, and headed out across the runwa . It was a strange beginning. !ecker pushed it from his mind. (ith a little luck he/d be back in time to salvage some of his -tone *anor trip with -usan. In and out, he told himself. In and out. There was no wa he could have known.

Chapter 9
- stems securit technician Phil 1hartrukian had onl intended to be inside 1r pto a minute" 0ust long enough to grab some paperwork he/d forgotten the da before. !ut it was not to be. After making his wa across the 1r pto floor and stepping into the - s%-ec lab, he immediatel knew something was not right. The computer terminal that perpetuall monitored T<A7-,T</s internal workings was unmanned and the monitor was switched off. 1hartrukian called out, '.ello)+ There was no repl . The lab was spotless"as if no one had been there for hours. Although 1hartrukian was onl twent %three and relativel new to the - s%-ec s;uad, he/d been trained well, and he knew the drillC There was a!$ays a - s%-ec on dut in 1r pto5 especiall on -aturda s when no cr ptographers were around. .e immediatel powered up the monitor and turned to the dut board on the wall. '(ho/s on watch)+ he demanded aloud, scanning the list of names. According to the schedule, a oung rookie named -eidenberg was supposed to have started a double shift at midnight the night before. 1hartrukian glanced around the empt lab and frowned. '-o where the hell is he)+ As he watched the monitor power up, 1hartrukian wondered if -trathmore knew the - s%-ec lab was unmanned. .e had noticed on his wa in that the curtains of -trathmore/s workstation were closed, which meant the boss was in"not at all uncommon for a -aturda ; -trathmore, despite re;uesting his cr ptographers take -aturda s off, seemed to work F8> da s a ear. There was one thing 1hartrukian knew for certain"if -trathmore found out the - s%-ec lab was unmanned, it would cost the absent rookie his 0ob. 1hartrukian e ed the phone, wondering if he should call the oung techie and bail him out; there was an unspoken rule among - s%-ec that the would watch each other/s backs. In 1r pto, - s%-ecs were second%class citizens, constantl at odds with the lords of the manor. It was no secret that the cr ptographers ruled this multibillion%dollar roost; - s%-ecs were tolerated onl because the kept the to s running smoothl . 1hartrukian made his decision. .e grabbed the phone. !ut the receiver never reached his ear. .e stopped short, his e es transfi3ed on the monitor now coming into focus before him. As if in slow motion, he set down the phone and stared in open%mouthed wonder. In eight months as a - s%-ec, Phil 1hartrukian had never seen T<A7-,T</s <un%*onitor post an thing other than a double zero in the hours field. Toda was a first.

TI*E E,AP-E&C @>C@AC=@

'$ifteen hours and seventeen minutes)+ he choked. 'Impossible2+ .e rebooted the screen, pra ing it hadn/t refreshed properl . !ut when the monitor came back to life, it looked the same. 1hartrukian felt a chill. 1r pto/s - s%-ecs had onl one responsibilit C Geep T<A7-,T< 'clean+"virus free. 1hartrukian knew that a fifteen%hour run could onl mean one thing"infection. An impure file had gotten inside T<A7-,T< and was corrupting the programming. Instantl his training kicked in; it no longer mattered that the - s%-ec lab had been unmanned or the monitors switched off. .e focused on the matter at hand"T<A7-,T<. .e immediatel called up a log of all the files that had entered T<A7-,T< in the last fort %eight hours. .e began scanning the list. &id an infected file get through) he wondered. 1ould the securit filters have missed something) As a precaution, ever file entering T<A7-,T< had to pass through what was known as 6auntlet"a series of powerful circuit%level gatewa s, packet filters, and disinfectant programs that scanned inbound files for computer viruses and potentiall dangerous subroutines. $iles containing programming 'unknown+ to 6auntlet were immediatel re0ected. The had to be checked b hand. #ccasionall 6auntlet re0ected entirel harmless files on the basis that the contained programming the filters had never seen before. In that case, the - s%-ecs did a scrupulous manual inspection, and onl then, on confirmation that the file was clean, did the b pass 6auntlet/s filters and send the file into T<A7-,T<. 1omputer viruses were as varied as bacterial viruses. ,ike their ph siological counterparts, computer viruses had one goal"to attach themselves to a host s stem and replicate. In this case, the host was T<A7-,T<. 1hartrukian was amazed the 7-A hadn/t had problems with viruses before. 6auntlet was a potent sentr , but still, the 7-A was a bottom feeder, sucking in massive amounts of digital information from s stems all over the world. -nooping data was a lot like having indiscriminate se3"protection or no protection, sooner or later ou caught something. 1hartrukian finished e3amining the file list before him. .e was now more puzzled than before. Ever file checked out. 6auntlet had seen nothing out of the ordinar , which meant the file in T<A7-,T< was totall clean. '-o what the hell/s taking so long)+ he demanded of the empt room. 1hartrukian felt himself break a sweat. .e wondered if he should go disturb -trathmore with the news. 'A virus probe,+ 1hartrukian said firml , tr ing to calm himself down. 'I should run a virus probe.+ 1hartrukian knew that a virus probe would be the first thing -trathmore would re;uest an wa . 6lancing out at the deserted 1r pto floor, 1hartrukian made his decision. .e loaded the viral probe software and launched it. The run would take about fifteen minutes. '1ome back clean,+ he whispered. '-;ueak clean. Tell &add it/s nothing.+ !ut 1hartrukian sensed it was not 'nothing.+ Instinct told him something ver unusual was going on inside the great decoding beast.

Chapter 10
'Ensei Tankado is dead)+ -usan felt a wave of nausea. '4ou killed him) I thought ou said"+ '(e didn/t touch him,+ -trathmore assured her. '.e died of a heart attack. 1#*I7T phoned earl this morning. Their computer flagged Tankado/s name in a -eville police log through Interpol.+ '.eart attack)+ -usan looked doubtful. '.e was thirt ears old.+

'Thirt %two,+ -trathmore corrected. '.e had a congenital heart defect.+ 'I/d never heard that.+ 'Turned up in his 7-A ph sical. 7ot something he bragged about.+ -usan was having trouble accepting the serendipit of the timing. 'A defective heart could kill him"0ust like that)+ It seemed too convenient. -trathmore shrugged. '(eak heart5 combine it with the heat of -pain. Throw in the stress of blackmailing the 7-A5.+ -usan was silent a moment. Even considering the conditions, she felt a pang of loss at the passing of such a brilliant fellow cr ptographer. -trathmore/s gravell voice interrupted her thoughts. 'The onl silver lining on this whole fiasco is that Tankado was traveling alone. 1hances are good his partner doesn/t know et he/s dead. The -panish authorities said the /d contain the information for as long as possible. (e onl got the call because 1#*I7T was on the ball.+ -trathmore e ed -usan closel . 'I/ve got to find the partner before he finds out Tankado/s dead. That/s wh I called ou in. I need our help.+ -usan was confused. It seemed to her that Ensei Tankado/s timel demise had solved their entire problem. '1ommander,+ she argued, 'if the authorities are sa ing he died of a heart attack, we/re off the hook; his partner will know the 7-A is not responsible.+ '7ot responsible)+ -trathmore/s e es widened in disbelief. '-omebod blackmails the 7-A and turns up dead a few da s later"and we/re not responsib!e6 I/d bet big mone Tankado/s m ster friend won/t see it that wa . (hatever happened, we look guilt as hell. It could easil have been poison, a rigged autops , an number of things.+ -trathmore paused. '(hat was our first reaction when I told ou Tankado was dead)+ -he frowned. 'I thought the 7-A had killed him.+ 'E3actl . If the 7-A can put five <h olite satellites in geos nchronous orbit over the *ideast, I think it/s safe to assume we have the resources to pa off a few -panish policemen.+ The commander had made his point. -usan e3haled. *nsei Tan&ado is dead. The #SA $i!! be b!amed. '1an we find his partner in time)+ 'I think so. (e/ve got a good lead. Tankado made numerous public announcements that he was working with a partner. I think he hoped it would discourage software firms from doing him an harm or tr ing to steal his ke . .e threatened that if there was an foul pla , his partner would publish the ke , and all firms would suddenl find themselves in competition with free software.+ '1lever.+ -usan nodded. -trathmore went on. 'A few times, in public, Tankado referred to his partner b name. .e called him 7orth &akota.+ '7orth &akota) #bviousl an alias of some sort.+ '4es, but as a precaution I ran an Internet in;uir using 7orth &akota as a search string. I didn/t think I/d find an thing, but I turned up an E%mail account.+ -trathmore paused. '#f course I assumed it wasn/t the 7orth &akota we were looking for, but I searched the account 0ust to be sure. Imagine m shock when I found the account was full of E%mail from Ensei Tankado.+ -trathmore raised his e ebrows. 'And the messages were full of references to &igital $ortress and Tankado/s plans to blackmail the 7-A.+ -usan gave -trathmore a skeptical look. -he was amazed the commander was letting himself be pla ed with so easil . '1ommander,+ she argued, 'Tankado knows full well the 7-A can snoop E%mail from the Internet; he would ne.er use E%mail to send secret information. It/s a trap. Ensei Tankado ga.e ou 7orth &akota. .e &ne$ ou/d run a search. (hatever information he/s sending, he $anted ou to find"it/s a false trail.+ '6ood instinct,+ -trathmore fired back, 'e3cept for a couple of things. I couldn/t find an thing under 7orth &akota, so I tweaked the search string. The account I found was under a variation"7&AG#TA.+

-usan shook her head. '<unning permutations is standard procedure. Tankado knew ou/d tr variations until ou hit something. 7&AG#TA/s far too eas an alteration.+ 'Perhaps,+ -trathmore said, scribbling words on apiece of paper and handing it to -usan. '!ut look at this.+ -usan read the paper. -he suddenl understood the 1ommander/s thinking. #n the paper was 7orth &akota/s E%mail address.
7&AG#TAQara.anon.org

It was the letters A<A in the address that had caught -usan/s e e. A<A stood for American <emailers Anon mous, a well%known anon mous server. Anon mous servers were popular among Internet users who wanted to keep their identities secret. $or a fee, these companies protected an E%mailer/s privac b acting as a middleman for electronic mail. It was like having a numbered post office bo3"a user could send and receive mail without ever revealing his true address or name. The compan received E%mail addressed to aliases and then forwarded it to the client/s real account. The remailing compan was bound b contract never to reveal the identit or location of its real users. 'It/s not proof,+ -trathmore said. '!ut it/s prett suspicious.+ -usan nodded, suddenl more convinced. '-o ou/re sa ing Tankado didn/t care if an bod searched for 7orth &akota because his identit and location are protected b A<A.+ 'E3actl .+ -usan schemed for a moment. 'A<A services mainl D.-. accounts. 4ou think 7orth &akota might be over here somewhere)+ -trathmore shrugged. '1ould be. (ith an American partner, Tankado could keep the two pass%ke s separated geographicall . *ight be a smart move.+ -usan considered it. -he doubted Tankado would have shared his pass%ke with an one e3cept a ver close friend, and as she recalled, Ensei Tankado didn/t have man friends in the -tates. '7orth &akota,+ she mused, her cr ptological mind mulling over the possible meanings of the alias. '(hat does his E%mail to Tankado sound like)+ '7o idea. 1#*I7T onl caught Tankado/s outbound. At this point all we have on 7orth &akota is an anon mous address.+ -usan thought a minute. 'An chance it/s a deco )+ -trathmore raised an e ebrow. '.ow so)+ 'Tankado could be sending bogus E%mail to a dead account in hopes we/d snoop it. (e/d think he/s protected, and he/d never have to risk sharing his pass%ke . .e could be working alone.+ -trathmore chuckled, impressed. 'Trick idea, e3cept for one thing. .e/s not using an of his usual home or business Internet accounts. .e/s been dropping b &oshisha Dniversit and logging on to their mainframe. Apparentl he/s got an account there that he/s managed to keep secret. It/s a ver well%hidden account, and I found it onl b chance.+ -trathmore paused. '-o5 if Tankado wanted us to snoop his mail, wh would he use a secret account)+ -usan contemplated the ;uestion. '*a be he used a secret account so ou wouldn/t suspect a plo ) *a be Tankado hid the account 0ust deep enough that ou/d stumble on to it and think ou got luck . It gives his E%mail credibilit .+ -trathmore chuckled. '4ou should have been a field agent. The idea/s a good one. Dnfortunatel , ever letter Tankado sends gets a response. Tankado writes, his partner responds.+ -usan frowned. '$air enough. -o, ou/re sa ing 7orth &akota/s for real.+ 'Afraid so. And we/ve got to find him. And ,uiet!y. If he catches wind that we/re onto him, it/s all over.+

-usan now knew e3actl wh -trathmore had called her in. ',et me guess,+ she said. '4ou want me to snoop A<A/s secure database and find 7orth &akota/s real identit )+ -trathmore gave her a tight smile. '*s. $letcher, ou read m mind.+ (hen it came to discreet Internet searches, -usan $letcher was the woman for the 0ob. A ear ago, a senior (hite .ouse official had been receiving E%mail threats from someone with an anon mous E%mail address. The 7-A had been asked to locate the individual. Although the 7-A had the clout to demand the remailing compan reveal the user/s identit , it opted for a more subtle method"a 'tracer.+ -usan had created, in effect, a directional beacon disguised as a piece of E%mail. -he could send it to the user/s phon address, and the remailing compan , performing the dut for which it had been contracted, would forward it to the user/s real address. #nce there, the program would record its Internet location and send word back to the 7-A. Then the program would disintegrate without a trace. $rom that da on, as far as the 7-A was concerned, anon mous remailers were nothing more than a minor anno ance. '1an ou find him)+ -trathmore asked. '-ure. (h did ou wait so long to call me)+ 'Actuall +"he frowned"+I hadn/t planned on calling ou at all. I didn/t want an one else in the loop. I tried to send a cop of our tracer m self, but ou wrote the damn thing in one of those new h brid languages; I couldn/t get it to work. It kept returning nonsensical data. I finall had to bite the bullet and bring ou in.+ -usan chuckled. -trathmore was a brilliant cr ptographic programmer, but his repertoire was limited primaril to algorithmic work; the nuts and bolts of less loft 'secular+ programming often escaped him. (hat was more, -usan had written her tracer in a new, crossbreed programming language called ,I*!#; it was understandable that -trathmore had encountered problems. 'I/ll take care of it.+ -he smiled, turning to leave. 'I/ll be at m terminal.+ 'An idea on a time frame)+ -usan paused. '(ell5 it depends on how efficientl A<A forwards their mail. If he/s here in the -tates and uses something like A#, or 1ompuserve, I/ll snoop his credit card and get a billing address within the hour. If he/s with a universit or corporation, it/ll take a little longer.+ -he smiled uneasil . 'After that, the rest is up to ou.+ -usan knew that 'the rest+ would be an 7-A strike team, cutting power to the gu /s house and crashing through his windows with stun guns. The team would probabl think it was on a drug bust. -trathmore would undoubtedl stride through the rubble himself and locate the si3t %four%character pass%ke . Then he would destro it. &igital $ortress would languish forever on the Internet, locked for all eternit . '-end the tracer carefull ,+ -trathmore urged. 'If 7orth &akota sees we/re onto him, he/ll panic, and I/ll never get a team there before he disappears with the ke .+ '.it and run,+ she assured. 'The moment this thing finds his account, it/ll dissolve. .e/ll never know we were there.+ The commander nodded tiredl . 'Thanks.+ -usan gave him a soft smile. -he was alwa s amazed how even in the face of disaster -trathmore could muster a ;uiet calm. -he was convinced it was this abilit that had defined his career and lifted him to the upper echelons of power. As -usan headed for the door, she took a long look down at T<A7-,T<. The e3istence of an unbreakable algorithm was a concept she was still struggling to grasp. -he pra ed the /d find 7orth &akota in time. '*ake it ;uick,+ -trathmore called, 'and ou/ll be in the -mok *ountains b nightfall.+ -usan froze in her tracks. -he knew she had never mentioned her trip to -trathmore. -he wheeled. 8s the #SA tapping my phone6 -trathmore smiled guiltil . '&avid told me about our trip this morning. .e said ou/d be prett ticked about postponing it.+ -usan was lost. '4ou talked to &avid this morning67

'#f course.+ -trathmore seemed puzzled b -usan/s reaction. 'I had to brief him.+ '!rief him)+ she demanded. '$or $hat67 '$or his trip. I sent &avid to -pain.+

Chapter 11
-pain. 8 sent Da.id to Spain. The commander/s words stung. '&avid/s in -pain)+ -usan was incredulous. '4ou sent him to -pain)+ .er tone turned angr . 5(hy67 -trathmore looked dumbfounded. .e was apparentl not accustomed to being elled at, even b his head cr ptographer. .e gave -usan a confused look. -he was fle3ed like a mother tiger defending her cub. '-usan,+ he said. '4ou spoke to him, didn/t ou) &avid did e3plain)+ -he was too shocked to speak. -pain) That/s wh &avid postponed our -tone *anor trip) 'I sent a car for him this morning. .e said he was going to call ou before he left. I/m sorr . I thought"+ '(h would ou send &avid to -pain)+ -trathmore paused and gave her an obvious look. 'To get the other pass%ke .+ '(hat other pass%ke )+ 'Tankado/s cop .+ -usan was lost. '(hat are ou talking about)+ -trathmore sighed. 'Tankado surel would have had a cop of the pass%ke on him when he died. I sure as hell didn/t want it floating around the -eville morgue.+ '-o ou sent &avid !ecker)+ -usan was be ond shock. 7othing was making sense. '&avid doesn/t even work for ou2+ -trathmore looked startled. 7o one ever spoke to the deput director of the 7-A that wa . '-usan,+ he said, keeping his cool, 'that/s the point. I needed"+ The tiger lashed out. '4ou/ve got twent thousand emplo ees at our command2 (hat gives ou the right to send m fiancO)+ 'I needed a civilian courier, someone totall removed from government. If I went through regular channels and someone caught wind"+ 'And &avid !ecker is the onl civilian ou know)+ '7o2 &avid !ecker is not the onl civilian I know2 !ut at si3 this morning, things were happening ;uickl 2 &avid speaks the language, he/s smart, I trust him, and I thought I/d do him a favor2+ 'A favor)+ -usan sputtered. '-ending him to -pain is a favor)+ '4es2 I/m pa ing him ten thousand for one da /s work. .e/ll pick up Tankado/s belongings, and he/ll fl home. That/s a favor2+ -usan fell silent. -he understood. It was all about mone . .er thoughts wheeled back five months to the night the president of 6eorgetown Dniversit had offered &avid a promotion to the language department chair. The president had warned him that his teaching hours would be cut back and that there would be increased paperwork, but there was also a substantial raise in salar . -usan had wanted to cr out Da.id, dont do it4 %ou!! be miserab!e. (e ha.e p!enty of money=$ho ares $hi h one of us earns it6 !ut it was not her place. In the end, she stood b his decision to accept. As the fell asleep that night, -usan tried to be happ for him, but something inside kept telling her it would be a disaster. -he/d been right"but she/d never counted on being so right. '4ou paid him ten thousand dollars)+ she demanded. 'That/s a dirt trick2+ -trathmore was fuming now. 'Trick) It wasn/t an goddamn trick2 I didn/t even tell him about the mone . I asked him as a personal favor. .e agreed to go.+ '#f course he agreed2 4ou/re m boss2 4ou/re the deput director of the 7-A2 .e couldn/t sa no2+

'4ou/re right,+ -trathmore snapped. '(hich is wh I called him. I didn/t have the lu3ur of"+ '&oes the director know ou sent a civilian)+ '-usan,+ -trathmore said, his patience obviousl wearing thin, 'the director is not involved. .e knows nothing about this.+ -usan stared at -trathmore in disbelief. It was as if she no longer knew the man she was talking to. .e had sent her fiancO"a teacher"on an 7-A mission and then failed to notif the director about the biggest crisis in the histor of the organization. ',eland $ontaine hasnt been notified)+ -trathmore had reached the end of his rope. .e e3ploded. '-usan, now listen here2 I called ou in here because I need an all , not an in;uir 2 I/ve had one hell of morning. I downloaded Tankado/s file last night and sat here b the output printer for hours pra ing T<A7-,T< could break it. At dawn I swallowed m pride and dialed the director"and let me tell ou, that was a conversation I was rea!!y looking forward to. 6ood morning, sir. I/m sorr to wake ou. (h am I calling) I 0ust found out T<A7-,T< is obsolete. It/s because of an algorithm m entire top%dollar 1r pto team couldn/t come close to writing2+ -trathmore slammed his fist on the desk. -usan stood frozen. -he didn/t make a sound. In ten ears, she had seen -trathmore lose his cool onl a handful of times, and never once with her. Ten seconds later neither one of them had spoken. $inall -trathmore sat back down, and -usan could hear his breathing slowing to normal. (hen he finall spoke, his voice was eeril calm and controlled. 'Dnfortunatel ,+ -trathmore said ;uietl , 'it turns out the director is in -outh America meeting with the President of 1olombia. !ecause there/s absolutel nothing he could do from down there, I had two options"re;uest he cut his meeting short and return, or handle this m self.+ There was along silence. -trathmore finall looked up, and his tired e es met -usan/s. .is e3pression softened immediatel . '-usan, I/m sorr . I/m e3hausted. This is a nightmare come true. I know ou/re upset about &avid. I didn/t mean for ou to find out this wa . I thought ou knew.+ -usan felt a wave of guilt. 'I overreacted. I/m sorr . &avid is a good choice.+ -trathmore nodded absentl . '.e/ll be back tonight.+ -usan thought about ever thing the commander was going through"the pressure of overseeing T<A7-,T<, the endless hours and meetings. It was rumored his wife of thirt ears was leaving him. Then on top of it, there was &igital $ortress"the biggest intelligence threat in the histor of the 7-A, and the poor gu was fl ing solo. 7o wonder he looked about to crack. '1onsidering the circumstances,+ -usan said, 'I think ou should probabl call the director.+ -trathmore shook his head, a bead of sweat dripping on his desk. 'I/m not about to compromise the director/s safet or risk a leak b contacting him about a ma0or crisis he can do nothing about.+ -usan knew he was right. Even in moments like these, -trathmore was clear%headed. '.ave ou considered calling the President)+ -trathmore nodded. '4es. I/ve decided against it.+ -usan had figured as much. -enior 7-A officials had the right to handle verifiable intelligence emergencies without e3ecutive knowledge. The 7-A was the onl D.-. intelligence organization that en0o ed total immunit from federal accountabilit of an sort. -trathmore often availed himself of this right; he preferred to work his magic in isolation. '1ommander,+ she argued, 'this is too big to be handled alone. 4ou/ve got to let somebod else in on it.+ '-usan, the e3istence of &igital $ortress has ma0or implications for the future of this organization. I have no intention of informing the President behind the director/s back. (e have a crisis, and I/m handling it.+ .e e ed her thoughtfull . 'I am the deput director of operations.+ A wear smile crept across his face. 'And besides, I/m not alone. I/ve got -usan $letcher on m team.+ In that instant, -usan realized what she respected so much about Trevor -trathmore. $or ten ears, through thick and thin, he had alwa s led the wa for her. -teadfast. Dnwavering. It was his

dedication that amazed her"his unshakable allegiance to his principles, his countr , and his ideals. 1ome what ma , 1ommander Trevor -trathmore was a guiding light in a world of impossible decisions. '4ou are on m team, aren/t ou)+ he asked. -usan smiled. '4es, sir, I am. #ne hundred percent.+ '6ood. 7ow can we get back to work)+

Chapter 12
&avid !ecker had been to funerals and seen dead bodies before, but there was something particularl unnerving about this one. It was not an immaculatel groomed corpse resting in a silk%lined coffin. This bod had been stripped naked and dumped unceremoniousl on an aluminum table. The e es had not et found their vacant, lifeless gaze. Instead the were twisted upward toward the ceiling in an eerie freeze%frame of terror and regret. 'R&Snde estTn sus efectos)+ !ecker asked in fluent 1astillian -panish. '(here are his belongings)+ 'AllU,+ replied the ellow%toothed lieutenant. .e pointed to a counter of clothing and other personal items. 'REs todo) Is that all)+ '-U.+ !ecker asked for a cardboard bo3. The lieutenant hurried off to find one. It was -aturda evening, and the -eville morgue was technicall closed. The oung lieutenant had let !ecker in under direct orders from the head of the -eville 6uardia"it seemed the visiting American had powerful friends. !ecker e ed the pile of clothes. There was a passport, wallet, and glasses stuffed in one of the shoes. There was also a small duffel the 6uardia had taken from the man/s hotel. !ecker/s directions were clearC Touch nothing. <ead nothing. ?ust bring it all back. Ever thing. &on/t miss an thing. !ecker surve ed the pile and frowned. (hat could the 7-A possibl want with this 0unk) The lieutenant returned with a small bo3, and !ecker began putting the clothes inside. The officer poked at the cadaver/s leg. 'RBuienes) (ho is he)+ '7o idea.+ ',ooks 1hinese.+ "apanese, !ecker thought. 'Poor bastard. .eart attack, huh)+ !ecker nodded absentl . 'That/s what the told me.+ The lieutenant sighed and shook his head s mpatheticall . 'The -eville sun can be cruel. !e careful out there tomorrow.+ 'Thanks,+ !ecker said. '!ut I/m headed home.+ The officer looked shocked. '4ou 0ust got here2+ 'I know, but the gu pa ing m airfare is waiting for these items.+ The lieutenant looked offended in the wa onl a -paniard can be offended. '4ou mean ou/re not going to experien e -eville)+ 'I was here ears ago. !eautiful cit . I/d love to sta .+ '-o ou/ve seen ,a 6iralda)+ !ecker nodded. .e/d never actuall climbed the ancient *oorish tower, but he/d seen it. '.ow about the Alcazar)+ !ecker nodded again, remembering the night he/d heard Pacode ,ucia pla guitar in the court ard"$lamenco under the stars in a fifteenth%centur fortress. .e wished he/d known -usan back then. 'And of course there/s 1hristopher 1olumbus.+ The officer beamed. '.e/s buried in our cathedral.+

!ecker looked up. '<eall ) I thought 1olumbus was buried in the &ominican <epublic.+ '.ell no2 (ho starts these rumors) 1olumbus/s bod is here in -pain2 I thought ou said ou went to college.+ !ecker shrugged. 'I must have missed that da .+ 'The -panish church is ver proud to own his relics.+ The Spanish hur h. !ecker knew here was onl one church in -pain"the <oman 1atholic church. 1atholicism was bigger here than in :atican 1it . '(e don/t, of course, have his entire bod ,+ the lieutenant added. '-olo el escroto.+ !ecker stopped packing and stared at the lieutenant. So!o e! es roto6 .e fought off a grin. '?ust his scrotum)+ The officer nodded proudl . '4es. (hen the church obtains the remains of a great man, the saint him and spread the relics to different cathedrals so ever one can en0o their splendor.+ 'And ou got the5+ !ecker stifled a laugh. '# e2 It/s a prett important part2+ the officer defended. 'It/s not like we got a rib or a knuckle like those churches in 6alicia2 4ou should reall sta and see it.+ !ecker nodded politel . '*a be I/ll drop in on m wa out of town.+ '*ala suerte.+ The officer sighed. '!ad luck. The cathedral/s closed till sunrise mass.+ 'Another time then.+ !ecker smiled, hoisting the bo3. 'I should probabl get going. * flight/s waiting. '.e made a final glance around the room. '4ou want a ride to the airport)+ the officer asked. 'I/ve got a *oto 6uzzi out front.+ '7o thanks. I/ll catch a cab.+ !ecker had driven a motorc cle once in college and nearl killed himself on it. .e had no intention of getting on one again, regardless of who was driving. '(hatever ou sa ,+ the officer said, heading for the door. 'I/ll get the lights.+ !ecker tucked the bo3 under his arm. <a.e 8 got e.erything6 .e took a last look at the bod on the table. The figure was stark naked, face up under fluorescent lights, clearl hiding nothing. !ecker found his e es drawn again to the strangel deformed hands. .e gazed a minute, focusing more intentl . The officer killed the lights, and the room went dark. '.old on,+ !ecker said. 'Turn those back on.+ The lights flickered back on. !ecker set his bo3 on the floor walked over to the corpse. .e leaned down and s;uinted at the man/s left hand. The officer followed !ecker/s gaze. 'Prett ugl , huh)+ !ut the deformit was not what had caught !ecker/s e e. .e/d seen something else. .e turned to the officer. '4ou/re sure ever thing/s in this bo3)+ The officer nodded. '4eah. That/s it.+ !ecker stood for moment with his hands on his hips. Then he picked up the bo3, carried it back over to the counter, and dumped it out. 1arefull , piece b piece, he shook out the clothing. Then he emptied the shoes and tapped them as if tr ing to remove a pebble. After going over ever thing a second time, he stepped back and frowned. 'Problem)+ asked the lieutenant. '4eah,+ !ecker said. '(e/re missing something.+

Chapter 13
Tokugen 7umataka stood in his plush, penthouse office and gazed out at the Tok o sk line. .is emplo ees and competitors knew him a sa&uta same "the deadl shark. $or three decade she/d outguessed, outbid, and out advertised all the ?apanese competition; now he was on the brink of becoming a giant in the world market as well. .e was about to close the biggest deal of his life"a deal that would make his 7umatech 1orp. the *icrosoft of the future. .is blood was alive with the cool rush of adrenaline. !usiness was war" and war was e3citing.

Although Tokugen 7umataka had been suspicious when the call had come three da s ago, he now knew the truth. .e was blessed with myouri "good fortune. The gods had chosen him. *** 'I have a cop of the &igital $ortress pass%ke ,+ the American accent had said. '(ould ou like to bu it)+ 7umataka had almost laughed aloud. .e knew it was a plo . 7umatech 1orp. had bid generousl for Ensei Tankado/s new algorithm, and now one of 7umatech/s competitors was pla ing games, tr ing to find out the amount of the bid. '4ou have the pass%ke )+ 7umataka feigned interest. 'I do. * name is 7orth &akota.+ 7umataka stifled a laugh. Ever one knew about 7orth &akota. Tankado had told the press about his secret partner. It had been a wise move on Tankado/s part to have a partner; even in ?apan, business practices had become dishonorable. Ensei Tankado was not safe. !ut one false move b an overeager firm, and the pass%ke would be published; ever software firm on the market would suffer. 7umataka took a long pull on his Dmami cigar and pla ed along with the caller/s pathetic charade. '-o ou/re selling our pass%ke ) Interesting. .ow does Ensei Tankado feel about this)+ 'I have no allegiance to *r. Tankado. *r. Tankado was foolish to trust me. The pass%ke is worth hundreds of times what he is pa ing me to handle it for him.+ 'I/m sorr ,+ 7umataka said. '4our pass%ke alone is worth nothing to me. (hen Tankado finds out what ou/ve done, he will simpl publish his cop , and the market will be flooded.+ '4ou will receive both pass%ke s,+ the voice said. '*r. Tankado/s and mine.+ 7umataka covered the receiver and laughed aloud. .e couldn/t help asking. '.ow much are ou asking for both ke s)+ 'Twent million D.-. dollars.+ Twent million was almost e3actl what 7umataka had bid. 'Twent million)+ .e gasped in mock horror. 'That/s outrageous2+ 'I/ve seen the algorithm. I assure ou it/s well worth it.+ #o shit, thought 7umataka. 8ts $orth ten times that. 'Dnfortunatel ,+ he said, tiring of the game, 'we both know *r. Tankado would never stand for this. Think of the legal repercussions.+ The caller paused ominousl . '(hat if *r. Tankado were no longer a factor)+ 7umataka wanted to laugh, but he noted an odd determination in the voice. 'If Tankado were no longer a factor)+ 7umataka considered it. 'Then ou and I would have a deal.+ 'I/ll be in touch,+ the voice said. The line went dead.

Chapter 14
!ecker gazed down at the cadaver. Even hours after death, the Asian/s face radiated with a pinkish glow of a recent sunburn. The rest of him was a pale ellow"all e3cept the small area of purplish bruising directl over his heart. Probabl from the 1P<, !ecker mused. Too bad it didn/t work. .e went back to stud ing the cadaver/s hands. The were like nothing !ecker had ever seen. Each hand had onl three digits, and the were twisted and askew. The disfigurement, however, was not what !ecker was looking at. '(ell, I/ll be.+ The lieutenant grunted from across the room. '.e/s ?apanese, not 1hinese.+ !ecker looked up. The officer was thumbing through the dead man/s passport. 'I/d rather ou didn/t look at that,+ !ecker re;uested. Tou h nothing. >ead nothing. 'Ensei Tankado5 born ?anuar "+ 'Please,+ !ecker said politel . 'Put it back.+

The officer stared at the passport a moment longer and then tossed it back on the pile. 'This gu /s got a class%F visa. .e could have sta ed here for ears.+ !ecker poked at the victim/s hand with a pen. '*a be he lived here.+ '7ope. &ate of entr was last week.+ '*a be he was mo.ing here,+ !ecker offered curtl . '4eah, ma be. 1rumm first week. -unstroke and a heart attack. Poor bastard.+ !ecker ignored the officer and studied the hand. '4ou/re positive he wasn/t wearing an 0ewelr when he died)+ The officer looked up, startled. '?ewelr )+ '4eah. Take a look at this.+ The officer crossed the room. The skin on Tankado/s left hand showed traces of sunburn, ever where e3cept a narrow band of flesh around the smallest finger. !ecker pointed to the strip of pale flesh. '-ee how this isn/t sunburned here) ,ooks like he was wearing a ring.+ The officer seemed surprised. 'A ring67 .is voice sounded suddenl perple3ed. .e studied the corpse/s finger. Then he flushed sheepishl . '* 6od.+ .e chuckled. 'The stor was true67 !ecker had a sudden sinking feeling. 'I beg our pardon)+ The officer shook his head in disbelief. 'I would have mentioned it before5 but I thought the gu was nuts.+ !ecker was not smiling. '(hat gu )+ 'The gu who phoned in the emergenc . -ome 1anadian tourist. Gept talking about a ring. !abbling in the worst damn -panish I ever heard.+ '.e said *r. Tankado was wearing a ring67 The officer nodded. .e pulled out a &ucado cigarette, e ed the no fumar sign, and lit up an wa . '6uess I should have said something, but the gu sounded totall loco.+ !ecker frowned. -trathmore/s words echoed in his ears. I want ever thing Ensei Tankado had with him. Ever thing. ,eave nothing. 7ot even a tin scrap of paper. '(here is the ring now)+ !ecker asked. The officer took a puff. ',ong stor .+ -omething told !ecker this was not good news. 'Tell me an wa .+

Chapter 15
-usan $letcher sat at her computer terminal inside 7ode F. 7ode F was the cr ptographers/ private, soundproofed chamber 0ust off the main floor. A two%inch sheet of curved one%wa glass gave the cr ptographers a panorama of the 1r pto floor while prohibiting an one else from seeing inside. At the back of the e3pansive 7ode F chamber, twelve terminals sat in a perfect circle. The annular arrangement was intended to encourage intellectual e3change between cr ptographers, to remind them the were part of a larger team"something like a code%breaker/s Gnights of the <ound Table. Ironicall , secrets were frowned on inside 7ode F. 7icknamed the Pla pen, 7ode F had none of the sterile feel of the rest of 1r pto. It was designed to feel like home"plush carpets, high%tech sound s stem, full stocked fridge, kitchenette, a 7erf basketball hoop. The 7-A had a philosoph about 1r ptoC &on/t drop a couple billion bucks into a code%breaking computer without enticing the best of the best to stick around and use it. -usan slipped out of her -alvatore $erragamo flats and dug her stockinged toes into the thick pile carpet. (ell%paid government emplo ees were encouraged to refrain from lavish displa s of personal wealth. It was usuall no problem for -usan"she was perfectl happ with her modest duple3, :olvo sedan, and conservative wardrobe. !ut shoes were another matter. Even when -usan was in college, she/d budgeted for the best.

4ou can/t 0ump for the stars if our feet hurt, her aunt had once told her. And when ou get where ou/re going, ou darn well better look great2 -usan allowed herself a lu3urious stretch and then settled down to business. -he pulled up her tracer and prepared to configure it. -he glanced at the E%mail address -trathmore had given her.
7&AG#TAQara.anon.org

The man calling himself 7orth &akota had an anon mous account, but -usan knew it would not remain anon mous for long. The tracer would pass through A<A, get forwarded to 7orth &akota, and then send information back containing the man/s real Internet address. If all went well, it would locate 7orth &akota soon, and -trathmore could confiscate the pass%ke . That would leave onl &avid. (hen he found Tankado/s cop , both pass%ke s could be destro ed; Tankado/s little time bomb would be harmless, a deadl e3plosive without a detonator. -usan double%checked the address on the sheet in front of her and entered the information in the correct data field. -he chuckled that -trathmore had encountered difficult sending the tracer himself. Apparentl he/d sent it twice, both times receiving Tankado/s address back rather than 7orth &akota/s. It was a simple mistake, -usan thought; -trathmore had probabl interchanged the data fields, and the tracer had searched for the wrong account. -usan finished configuring her tracer and ;ueued it for release. Then she hit return. The computer beeped once.
T<A1E< -E7T.

7ow came the waiting game. -usan e3haled. -he felt guilt for having been hard on the commander. If there was an one ;ualified to handle this threat single%handed, it was Trevor -trathmore. .e had an uncann wa of getting the best of all those who challenged him. -i3 months ago, when the E$$ broke a stor that an 7-A submarine was snooping underwater telephone cables, -trathmore calml leaked a conflicting stor that the submarine was actuall illegall bur ing to3ic waste. The E$$ and the oceanic environmentalists spent so much time bickering over which version was true, the media eventuall tired of the stor and moved on. Ever move -trathmore made was meticulousl planned. .e depended heavil on his computer when devising and revising his plans. ,ike man 7-A emplo ees, -trathmore used 7-A%developed software called !rain-torm"a risk%free wa to carr out 'what%if+ scenarios in the safet of a computer. !rain-torm was an artificial intelligence e3periment described b its developers as a 1ause V Effect -imulator. It originall had been intended for use in political campaigns as a wa to create real%time models of a given 'political environment.+ $ed b enormous amounts of data, the program created a relationar web"a h pothesized model of interaction between political variables, including current prominent figures, their staffs, their personal ties to each other, hot issues, individuals/ motivations weighted b variables like se3, ethnicit , mone , and power. The user could then enter an h pothetical event and !rain-torm would predict the event/s effect on 'the environment.+ 1ommander -trathmore worked religiousl with !rain-torm"not for political purposes, but as a T$* device; Time%,ine, $lowchart, V *apping software was a powerful tool for outlining comple3 strategies and predicting weaknesses. -usan suspected there were schemes hidden in -trathmore/s computer that someda would change the world. 4es, -usan thought, I was too hard on him. .er thoughts were 0arred b the hiss of the 7ode F doors.

-trathmore burst in. '-usan,+ he said. '&avid 0ust called. There/s been a setback.+

Chapter 16
'A ring)+ -usan looked doubtful. 'Tankado/s missing a ring)+ '4es. (e/re luck &avid caught it. It was a real heads%up pla .+ '!ut ou/re after a pass%ke , not 0ewelr .+ 'I know,+ -trathmore said, 'but I think the might be one and the same.+ -usan looked lost. 'It/s a long stor .+ -he motioned to the tracer on her screen. 'I/m not going an where.+ -trathmore sighed heavil and began pacing. 'Apparentl , there were witnesses to Tankado/s death. According to the officer at the morgue, a 1anadian tourist called the 6uardia this morning in a panic"he said a ?apanese man was having a heart attack in the park. (hen the officer arrived, he found Tankado dead and the 1anadian there with him, so he radioed the paramedics. (hile the paramedics took Tankado/s bod to the morgue, the officer tried to get the 1anadian to tell him what happened. All the old gu did was babble about some ring Tankado had given awa right before he died.+ -usan e ed him skepticall . 'Tankado ga.e a$ay a ring)+ '4eah. Apparentl he forced it in this old gu /s face"like he was begging him to take it. -ounds like the old gu got a close look at it.+ -trathmore stopped pacing and turned. '.e said the ring was engraved"with some sort of lettering.+ ',ettering)+ '4es, and according to him, it wasn/t English.+ -trathmore raised his e ebrows e3pectantl . '?apanese)+ -trathmore shook his head. '* first thought too. !ut get this"the 1anadian complained that the letters didn/t spell an thing. ?apanese characters could never be confused with our <oman lettering. .e said the engraving looked like a cat had gotten loose on a t pewriter.+ -usan laughed. '1ommander, ou don/t reall think"+ -trathmore cut her off. '-usan, it/s cr stal clear. Tankado engraved the &igital $ortress pass%ke on his ring. 6old is durable. (hether he/s sleeping, showering, eating"the pass%ke would alwa s be with him, read at a moment/s notice for instant publication.+ -usan looked dubious. '#n his finger) In the open like that)+ '(h not) -pain isn/t e3actl the encr ption capital of the world. 7obod would have an idea what the letters meant. !esides, if the ke is a standard si3t %four%bit"even in broad da light, nobod could possibl read and memorize all si3t %four characters.+ -usan looked perple3ed. 'And Tankado gave this ring to a total stranger moments before he died) (h )+ -trathmore/s gaze narrowed. '(h do ou think)+ It took -usan onl a moment before it clicked. .er e es widened. -trathmore nodded. 'Tankado was tr ing to get rid of it. .e thought we/d killed him. .e felt himself d ing and logicall assumed we were responsible. The timing was too coincidental. .e figured we/d gotten to him, poison or something, a slow%acting cardiac arrestor. .e knew the onl wa we/d dare kill him is if we/d found 7orth &akota.+ -usan felt a chill. '#f course,+ she whispered. 'Tankado thought that we neutralized his insurance polic so we could remove him too.+ It was all coming clear to -usan. The timing of the heart attack was so fortunate for the 7-A that Tankado had assumed the 7-A was responsible. .is final instinct was revenge. Ensei gave awa his ring as a last%ditch effort to publish the pass%ke . 7ow, incredibl , some unsuspecting 1anadian tourist held the ke to the most powerful encr ption algorithm in histor . -usan sucked in a deep breath and asked the inevitable ;uestion. '-o where is the 1anadian now)+

-trathmore frowned. 'That/s the problem.+ 'The officer doesn/t know where he is)+ '7o. The 1anadian/s stor was so absurd that the officer figured he was either in shock or senile. -o he put the old gu on the back of his motorc cle to take him back to his hotel. !ut the 1anadian didn/t know enough to hang on; he fell off before the /d gone three feet"cracked his head and broke his wrist.+ '(hat2+ -usan choked. 'The officer wanted to take him to a hospital, but the 1anadian was furious"said he/d walk back to 1anada before he/d get on the motorc cle again. -o all the officer could do was walk him to a small public clinic near the park. .e left him there to get checked out.+ -usan frowned. 'I assume there/s no need to ask where &avid is headed.+

Chapter 17
&avid !ecker stepped out onto the scorching tile concourse of Plaza de EspaWa. !efore him, El A unta miento"the ancient cit council building"rose from the trees on a three%acre bed of blue and white azule0o tiles. Its Arabic spires and carved facade gave the impression it had been intended more as a palace than a public office. &espite its histor of militar coups, fires, and public hangings, most tourists visited because the local brochures plugged it as the English militar head;uarters in the film 3a$ren e of Arabia . It had been far cheaper for 1olumbia Pictures to film in -pain than in Eg pt, and the *oorish influence on -eville/s architecture was enough to convince moviegoers the were looking at 1airo. !ecker reset his -eiko for local timeC KC@9 p.m."still afternoon b local standards; a proper -paniard never ate dinner before sunset, and the laz Andalusian sun seldom surrendered the skies before ten. Even in the earl %evening heat, !ecker found himself walking across the park at a brisk clip. -trathmore/s tone had sounded a lot more urgent this time than it had that morning. .is new orders left no room for misinterpretationC $ind the 1anadian, get the ring. &o whatever is necessar , 0ust get that ring. !ecker wondered what could possibl be so important about a ring with lettering all over it. -trathmore hadn/t offered, and !ecker hadn/t asked. #SA, he thought. #e.er Say Anything. *** #n the other side of Avenida Isabela 1atSlica, the clinic was clearl visible"the universal s mbol of a red cross in a white circle painted on the roof. The 6uardia officer had dropped the 1anadian off hours ago. !roken wrist, bumped head"no doubt the patient had been treated and discharged b now. !ecker 0ust hoped the clinic had discharge information"a local hotel or phone number where the man could be reached. (ith a little luck, !ecker figured he could find the 1anadian, get the ring, and be on his wa home without an more complications. -trathmore had told !ecker, 'Dse the ten thousand cash to bu the ring if ou have to. I/ll reimburse ou.+ 'That/s not necessar ,+ !ecker had replied. .e/d intended to return the mone an wa . .e hadn/t gone to -pain for mone , he/d gone for -usan. 1ommander Trevor -trathmore was -usan/s mentor and guardian. -usan owed him a lot; a one%da errand was the least !ecker could do. Dnfortunatel , things this morning hadn/t gone ;uite as !ecker had planned. .e/d hoped to call -usan from the plane and e3plain ever thing. .e considered having the pilot radio -trathmore so he could pass along a message but was hesitant to involve the deput director in his romantic problems. Three times !ecker had tried to call -usan himself"first from a defunct cellular on board the 0et, ne3t from a pa phone at the airport, then again from the morgue. -usan was not in. &avid

wondered where she could be. .e/d gotten her answering machine but had not left a message; what he wanted to sa was not a message for an answering machine. As he approached the road, he spotted a phone booth near the park entrance. .e 0ogged over, snatched up the receiver, and used his phone card to place the call. There was a long pause as the number connected. $inall it began to ring. 1ome on. !e there. After five rings the call connected. '.i. This is -usan $letcher. -orr I/m not in right now, but if ou leave our name5+ !ecker listened to the message. (here is she6 ! now -usan would be panicked. .e wondered if ma be she/d gone to -tone *anor without him. There was a beep. '.i. It/s &avid.+ .e paused, unsure what to sa . #ne of the things he hated about answering machines was that if ou stopped to think, the cut ou off. '-orr I didn/t call,+ he blurted 0ust in time. .e wondered if he should tell her what was going on. .e thought better of it. '1all 1ommander -trathmore. .e/ll e3plain ever thing.+ !ecker/s heart was pounding. This is absurd, he thought. 'I love ou,+ he added ;uickl and hung up. !ecker waited for some traffic to pass on Avenida !orbolla. .e thought about how -usan undoubtedl would have assumed the worst; it was unlike him not to call when he/d promised to. !ecker stepped out onto the four%lane boulevard. 'In and out,+ he whispered to himself. 'In and out.+ .e was too preoccupied to see the man in wire%rim glasses watching from across the street.

Chapter 18
-tanding before the huge plate%glass window in his Tok o sk rise, 7umataka took a long pull on his cigar and smiled to himself. .e could scarcel believe his good fortune. .e had spoken to the American again, and if all was going according to the timetable, Ensei Tankado had been eliminated b now, and his cop of the pass%ke had been confiscated. It was ironic, 7umataka thought, that he himself would end up with Ensei Tankado/s pass%ke . Tokugen 7umataka had met Tankado once man ears ago. The oung programmer had come to 7umatech 1orp. fresh out of college, searching for a 0ob. 7umataka had denied him. There was no ;uestion that Tankado was brilliant, but at the time there were other considerations. Although ?apan was changing, 7umataka had been trained in the old school; he lived b the code of menboko"honor and face. Imperfection was not to be tolerated. If he hired a cripple, he would bring shame on his compan . .e had disposed of Tankado/s rOsumO without a glance. 7umataka checked his watch again. The American, 7orth &akota, should have called b now. 7umataka felt a tinge of nervousness. .e hoped nothing was wrong. If the pass%ke s were as good as promised, the would unlock the most sought%after product of the computer age"a totall invulnerable digital encr ption algorithm. 7umataka could embed the algorithm in tamper%proof, spra %sealed :-,I chips and mass market them to world computer manufacturers, governments, industries, and perhaps, even the darker markets5 the black market of world terrorists. 7umataka smiled. It appeared, as usual, that he had found favor with the shichigosan"the seven deities of good luck. 7umatech 1orp. was about to control the onl cop of &igital $ortress that would ever e3ist. Twent million dollars was a lot of mone "but considering the product, it was the steal of the centur .

Chapter 19
'(hat if someone else is looking for the ring)+ -usan asked, suddenl nervous. '1ould &avid be in danger)+ -trathmore shook his head. '7obod else knows the ring e3ists. That/s wh I sent &avid. I wanted to keep it that wa . 1urious spooks don/t usuall tail -panish teachers.+

'.e/s a professor,+ -usan corrected, immediatel regretting the clarification. Ever now and again -usan got the feeling &avid wasn/t good enough for the commander, that he thought somehow she could do better than a schoolteacher. '1ommander,+ she said, moving on, 'if ou briefed &avid b car phone this morning, someone could have intercepted the"+ '#ne%in%a%million shot,+ -trathmore interrupted, his tone reassuring. 'An eavesdropper had to be in the immediate vicinit and know e3actl what to listen for.+ .e put his hand on her shoulder. 'I would never have sent &avid if I thought it was dangerous.+ .e smiled. 'Trust me. An sign of trouble, and I/ll send in the pros.+ -trathmore/s words were punctuated b the sudden sound of someone pounding on the 7ode F glass. -usan and -trathmore turned. - s%-ec Phil 1hartrukian had his face pressed against the pane and was pounding fiercel , straining to see through. (hatever he was e3citedl mouthing was not audible through the soundproofed glass. .e looked like he/d seen a ghost. '(hat the hell is 1hartrukian doing here)+ -trathmore growled. '.e/s not on dut toda .+ ',ooks like trouble,+ -usan said. '.e probabl saw the <un%*onitor.+ '6oddamn it2+ the commander hissed. 'I specificall called the scheduled - s%-ec last night and told him not to come in2+ -usan was not surprised. 1anceling a - s%-ec dut was irregular, but -trathmore undoubtedl had wanted privac in the dome. The last thing he needed was some paranoid - s%-ec blowing the lid off &igital $ortress. '(e better abort T<A7-,T<,+ -usan said. '(e can reset the <un%*onitor and tell Phil he was seeing things.+ -trathmore appeared to consider it, then shook his head. '7ot et. T<A7-,T< is fifteen hours into this attack. I want to run it a full twent %four"0ust to be sure.+ This made sense to -usan. &igital $ortress was the first ever use of a rotating clearte3t function. *a be Tankado had overlooked something; ma be T<A7-,T< would break it after twent %four hours. -omehow -usan doubted it. 'T<A7-,T< keeps running,+ -trathmore resolved. 'I need to know for sure this algorithm is untouchable.+ 1hartrukian continued pounding on the pane. '.ere goes nothing.+ -trathmore groaned. '!ack me up.+ The commander took a deep breath and then strode to the sliding glass doors. The pressure plate on the floor activated, and the doors hissed open. 1hartrukian practicall fell into the room. '1ommander, sir. I5 I/m sorr to bother ou, but the <un%*onitor5 I ran a virus probe and"+ 'Phil, Phil, Phil,+ the commander gushed pleasantl as he put a reassuring hand on 1hartrukian/s shoulder. '-low down. (hat seems to be the problem)+ $rom the eas going tone in -trathmore/s voice, nobod would ever have guessed his world was falling in around him. .e stepped aside and ushered 1hartrukian into the sacred walls of 7ode F. The - s%-ec stepped over the threshold hesitantl , like a well%trained dog that knew better. $rom the puzzled look on 1hartrukian/s face, it was obvious he/d never seen the inside of this place. (hatever had been the source of his panic was momentaril forgotten. .e surve ed the plush interior, the line of private terminals, the couches, the bookshelves, the soft lighting. (hen his gaze fell on the reigning ;ueen of 1r pto, -usan $letcher, he ;uickl looked awa . -usan intimidated the hell out of him. .er mind worked on a different plane. -he was unsettlingl beautiful, and his words alwa s seemed to get 0umbled around her. -usan/s unassuming air made it even worse. '(hat seems to be the problem, Phil)+ -trathmore said, opening the refrigerator. '&rink)+ '7o, ah"no, thank ou, sir.+ .e seemed tongue%tied, not sure he was trul welcome. '-ir5 I think there/s a problem with T<A7-,T<.+ -trathmore closed the refrigerator and looked at 1hartrukian casuall . '4ou mean the <un%*onitor)+

1hartrukian looked shocked. '4ou mean ou/ve seen it)+ '-ure. It/s running at about si3teen hours, if I/m not mistaken.+ 1hartrukian seemed puzzled. '4es, sir, si3teen hours. !ut that/s not all, sir. I ran a virus probe, and it/s turning up some prett strange stuff.+ '<eall )+ -trathmore seemed unconcerned. '(hat kind of stuff)+ -usan watched, impressed with the commander/s performance. 1hartrukian stumbled on. 'T<A7-,T</s processing something ver advanced. The filters have never seen an thing like it. I/m afraid T<A7-,T< ma have some sort of virus.+ 'A virus)+ -trathmore chuckled with 0ust a hint of condescension. 'Phil, I appreciate our concern, I reall do. !ut *s. $letcher and I are running a new diagnostic, some ver advanced stuff. I would have alerted ou to it, but I wasn/t aware ou were on dut toda .+ The - s%-ec did his best to cover gracefull . 'I switched with the new gu . I took his weekend shift.+ -trathmore/s e es narrowed. 'That/s odd. I spoke to him last night. I told him not to come in. .e said nothing about switching shifts.+ 1hartrukian felt a knot rise in his throat. There was a tense silence. '(ell.+ -trathmore finall sighed. '-ounds like an unfortunate mi3%up.+ .e put a hand on the - s%-ec/s shoulder and led him toward the door. 'The good news is ou don/t have to sta . *s. $letcher and I will be here all da . (e/ll hold the fort. 4ou 0ust en0o our weekend.+ 1hartrukian was hesitant. '1ommander, I reall think we should check the"+ 'Phil,+ -trathmore repeated a little more sternl , 'T<A7-,T< is fine. If our probe saw something strange, it/s because $e put it there. 7ow if ou don/t mind5+ -trathmore trailed off, and the - s%-ec understood. .is time was up. *** 'A diagnostic, m ass2+ 1hartrukian muttered as he fumed back into the - s%-ec lab. '(hat kind of looping function keeps three million processors bus for si3teen hours)+ 1hartrukian wondered if he should call the - s%-ec supervisor. 'oddamn ryptographers, he thought. They ?ust dont understand se urity4 The oath 1hartrukian had taken when he 0oined - s%-ec began running through his head. .e had sworn to use his e3pertise, training, and instinct to protect the 7-A/s multibillion%dollar investment. 'Instinct,+ he said defiantl . It doesn/t take a ps chic to know this isn/t an goddamn diagnostic2 &efiantl , 1hartrukian strode over to the terminal and fired up T<A7-,T</s complete arra of s stem assessment software. '4our bab /s in trouble, 1ommander,+ he grumbled. '4ou don/t trust instinct) I/ll get ou proof2+

Chapter 20
,a 1lUnica de -alud PXblica was actuall a converted elementar school and didn/t much resemble a hospital at all. It was a long, one%stor brick building with huge windows and a rusted swing set out back. !ecker headed up the crumbling steps. Inside, it was dark and nois . The waiting room was a line of folding metal chairs that ran the entire length of a long narrow corridor. A cardboard sign on a sawhorse read oficina with an arrow pointing down the hall. !ecker walked the diml lit corridor. It was like some sort of eerie set con0ured up for a .oll wood horror flick. The air smelled of urine. The lights at the far end were blown out, and the last fort or fift feet revealed nothing but muted silhouettes. A bleeding woman5 a oung couple

cr ing5 a little girl pra ing5 !ecker reached the end of the darkened hall. The door to his left was slightl a0ar, and he pushed it open. It was entirel empt e3cept for an old, withered woman naked on a cot struggling with her bedpan. ,ovel . !ecker groaned. .e closed the door. (here the hell is the office) Around a small dog%leg in the hall, !ecker heard voices. .e followed the sound and arrived at a translucent glass door that sounded as if a brawl were going on behind it. <eluctantl , !ecker pushed the door open. The office. Mayhem. ?ust as he/d feared. The line was about ten people deep, ever one pushing and shouting. -pain was not known for its efficienc , and !ecker knew he could be there all night waiting for discharge info on the 1anadian. There was onl one secretar behind the desk, and she was fending off disgruntled patients. !ecker stood in the doorwa a moment and pondered his options. There was a better wa . '1on permiso2+ an orderl shouted. A fast%rolling gurne sailed b . !ecker spun out of the wa and called after the orderl . 'R&Snde estT el telOfono)+ (ithout breaking stride, the man pointed to a set of double doors and disappeared around the corner. !ecker walked over to the doors and pushed his wa through. The room before him was enormous"an old g mnasium. The floor was a pale green and seemed to swim in and out of focus under the hum of the fluorescent lights. #n the wall, a basketball hoop hung limpl from its backboard. -cattered across the floor were a few dozen patients on low cots. In the far corner, 0ust beneath a burned%out scoreboard, was an old pa phone. !ecker hoped it worked. As he strode across the floor, he fumbled in his pocket for a coin. .e found A> pesetas in cinco%duros coins, change from the ta3i"0ust enough for two local calls. .e smiled politel to an e3iting nurse and made his wa to the phone. -cooping up the receiver, !ecker dialed &irector Assistance. Thirt seconds later he had the number for the clinic/s main office. <egardless of the countr , it seemed there was one universal truth when it came to officesC 7obod could stand the sound of an unanswered phone. It didn/t matter how man customers were waiting to be helped, the secretar would alwa s drop what she was doing to pick up the phone. !ecker punched the si3%digit e3change. In a moment he/d have the clinic/s office. There would undoubtedl be onl one 1anadian admitted toda with a broken wrist and a concussion; his file would be eas to find. !ecker knew the office would be hesitant to give out the man/s name and discharge address to a total stranger, but he had a plan. The phone began to ring. !ecker guessed five rings was all it would take. It took nineteen. '1lUnica de -alud PXblica,+ barked the frantic secretar . !ecker spoke in -panish with a thick $ranco%American accent. 'This is &avid !ecker. I/m with the 1anadian Embass . #ne of our citizens was treated b ou toda . I/d like his information such that the embass can arrange to pa his fees.+ '$ine,+ the woman said. 'I/ll send it to the embass on *onda .+ 'Actuall ,+ !ecker pressed, 'it/s important I get it immediatel .+ 'Impossible,+ the woman snapped. '(e/re ver bus .+ !ecker sounded as official as possible. 'It is an urgent matter. The man had a broken wrist and a head in0ur . .e was treated sometime this morning. .is file should be right on top.+ !ecker thickened the accent in his -panish"0ust clear enough to conve his needs, 0ust confusing enough to be e3asperating. People had a wa of bending the rules when the were e3asperated. Instead of bending the rules, however, the woman cursed self%important 7orth Americans and slammed down the phone. !ecker frowned and hung up. -trikeout. The thought of waiting hours in line didn/t thrill him; the clock was ticking"the old 1anadian could be an where b now. *a be he had decided to go back to 1anada. *a be he would sell the ring. !ecker didn/t have hours to wait in line. (ith renewed determination, !ecker snatched up the receiver and redialed. .e pressed the phone to his ear and leaned back against the wall. It began to ring. !ecker gazed out into the room. #ne ring5 two rings5 three"

A sudden surge of adrenaline coursed through his bod . !ecker wheeled and slammed the receiver back down into its cradle. Then he turned and stared back into the room in stunned silence. There on a cot, directl in front of him, propped up on a pile of old pillows, la an elderl man with a clean white cast on his right wrist.

Chapter 21
The American on Tokugen 7umataka/s private line sounded an3ious. '*r. 7umataka"I onl have a moment.+ '$ine. I trust ou have both pass%ke s.+ 'There will be a small dela ,+ the American answered. 'Dnacceptable,+ 7umataka hissed. '4ou said I would have them b the end of toda 2+ 'There is one loose end.+ 'Is Tankado dead)+ '4es,+ the voice said. '* man killed *r. Tankado, but he failed to get the pass%ke . Tankado gave it awa before he died. To a tourist.+ '#utrageous2+ 7umataka bellowed. 'Then how can ou promise me e3clusive"+ '<ela3,+ the American soothed. '4ou will have e3clusive rights. That is m guarantee. As soon as the missing pass%ke is found, &igital $ortress will be ours.+ '!ut the pass%ke could be copied2+ 'An one who has seen the ke will be eliminated.+ There was a long silence. $inall 7umataka spoke. '(here is the ke now)+ 'All ou need to know is that it $i!! be found.+ '.ow can ou be so certain)+ '!ecause I am not the onl one looking for it. American Intelligence has caught wind of the missing ke . $or obvious reasons the would like to prevent the release of &igital $ortress. The have sent a man to locate the ke . .is name is &avid !ecker.+ '.ow do ou know this)+ 'That is irrelevant.+ 7umataka paused. 'And if *r. !ecker locates the ke )+ '* man will take it from him.+ 'And after that)+ '4ou needn/t be concerned,+ the American said coldl . '(hen *r. !ecker finds the ke , he will be properl rewarded.+

Chapter 22
&avid !ecker strode over and stared down at the old man asleep on the cot. The man/s right wrist was wrapped in a cast. .e was between si3t and sevent ears old. .is snow%white hair was parted neatl to the side, and in the center of his forehead was a deep purple welt that spread down into his right e e. A !itt!e bump6 he thought, recalling the lieutenant/s words. !ecker checked the man/s fingers. There was no gold ring an where. !ecker reached down and touched the man/s arm. '-ir)+ .e shook him lightl . 'E3cuse me5 sir)+ The man didn/t move. !ecker tried again, a little louder. '-ir)+ The man stirred. 'Bu/est%ce5 ;uelle heure est"+ .e slowl opened his e es and focused on !ecker. .e scowled at having been disturbed. 'Bu/est%ce%;ue vous voulez)+ %es, !ecker thought, a Fren h 9anadian4 !ecker smiled down at him. '&o ou have a moment)+

Although !ecker/s $rench was perfect, he spoke in what he hoped would be the man/s weaker language, English. 1onvincing a total stranger to hand over a gold ring might be a little trick ; !ecker figured he could use an edge he could get. There was a long silence as the man got his bearings. .e surve ed his surroundings and lifted a long finger to smooth his limp white mustache. $inall he spoke. '(hat do ou want)+ .is English carried a thin, nasal accent. '-ir,+ !ecker said, over pronouncing his words as if speaking to a deaf person, 'I need to ask ou a few ;uestions.+ The man glared up at him with a strange look on his face. '&o ou have some sort of problem)+ !ecker frowned; the man/s English was impeccable. .e immediatel lost the condescending tone. 'I/m sorr to bother ou, sir, but were ou b an chance at the Plaza de EspaWa toda )+ The old man/s e es narrowed. 'Are ou from the 1it 1ouncil)+ '7o, actuall I/m"+ '!ureau of Tourism)+ '7o, I/m"+ ',ook, I know wh ou/re here2+ The old man struggled to sit up. 'I/m not going to be intimidated2 If I/ve said it once, I/ve said it a thousand times"Pierre 1loucharde writes the world the wa he !i.es the world. -ome of our corporate guidebooks might sweep this under the table for a free night on the town, but the Montrea! Times is not for hire2 I refuse2+ 'I/m sorr , sir. I don/t think ou under"+ '*erde alors2 I understand perfectl 2+ .e wagged a bon finger at !ecker, and his voice echoed through the g mnasium. '4ou/re not the first2 The tried the same thing at the *oulin <ouge, !rown/s Palace, and the 6olfigno in ,agos2 !ut $hat went to press) The truth2 The worst (ellington I/ve ever eaten2 The filthiest tub I/ve ever seen2 And the rockiest beach I/ve ever walked2 * readers e3pect no less2+ Patients on nearb cots began sitting up to see what was going on. !ecker looked around nervousl for a nurse. The last thing he needed was to get kicked out. 1loucharde was raging. 'That miserable e3cuse for a police officer works for your cit 2 .e made me get on his motorc cle2 ,ook at me2+ .e tried to lift his wrist. 5#o$ who/s going to write m column)+ '-ir, I"+ 'I/ve never been so uncomfortable in m fort %three ears of travel2 ,ook at this place2 4ou know, m column is s ndicated in over"+ '-ir2+ !ecker held up both hands urgentl signaling truce. 'I/m not interested in our column; I/m from the 1anadian 1onsulate. I/m here to make sure ou/re oka 2+ -uddenl there was a dead ;uiet in the g mnasium. The old man looked up from his bed and e ed the intruder suspiciousl . !ecker ventured on in almost a whisper. 'I/m here to see if there/s an thing I can do to help.+ 3i&e bring you a oup!e of @a!ium. After a long pause, the 1anadian spoke. 'The consulate)+ .is tone softened considerabl . !ecker nodded. '-o, ou/re not here about m column)+ '7o, sir.+ It was as if a giant bubble had burst for Pierre 1loucharde. .e settled slowl back down onto his mound of pillows. .e looked heartbroken. 'I thought ou were from the cit 5 tr ing to get me to5+ .e faded off and then looked up. 'If it/s not about m column, then wh are ou here)+ It was a good ;uestion, !ecker thought, picturing the -mok *ountains. '?ust an informal diplomatic courtes ,+ he lied. The man looked surprised. 'A diplomatic courtes )+

'4es, sir. As I/m sure a man of our stature is well aware, the 1anadian government works hard to protect its countr men from the indignities suffered in these, er"shall we sa "less refined countries.+ 1loucharde/s thin lips parted in a knowing smile. '!ut of course5 how pleasant.+ '4ou are a 1anadian citizen, aren/t ou)+ '4es, of course. .ow sill of me. Please forgive me. -omeone in m position is often approached with5 well5 ou understand.+ '4es, *r. 1loucharde, I certainl do. The price one pa s for celebrit .+ 'Indeed.+ 1loucharde let out a tragic sigh. .e was an unwilling mart r tolerating the masses. '1an ou believe this hideous place)+ .e rolled his e es at the bizarre surroundings. 'It/s a mocker . And the /ve decided to keep me overnight.+ !ecker looked around. 'I know. It/s terrible. I/m sorr it took me so long to get here.+ 1loucharde looked confused. 'I wasn/t even aware ou were coming.+ !ecker changed the sub0ect. ',ooks like a nast bump on our head. &oes it hurt)+ '7o, not reall . I took a spill this morning"the price one pa s for being a good -amaritan. The wrist is the thing that/s hurting me. -tupid 6uardia. I mean, reall 2 Putting a man of my age on a motorc cle. It/s reprehensible.+ 'Is there an thing I can get for ou)+ 1loucharde thought a moment, en0o ing the attention. '(ell, actuall 5+ .e stretched his neck and tilted his head left and right. 'I ou!d use another pillow if it/s not too much trouble.+ '7ot at all.+ !ecker grabbed a pillow off a nearb cot and helped 1loucharde get comfortable. The old man sighed contentedl . '*uch better5 thank ou.+ 'Pas du tout,+ !ecker replied. 'Ah2+ The man smiled warml . '-o ou do speak the language of the civilized world.+ 'That/s about the e3tent of it,+ !ecker said sheepishl . '7ot a problem,+ 1loucharde declared proudl . '* column is s ndicated in the D.-.; m English is first rate.+ '-o I/ve heard.+ !ecker smiled. .e sat down on the edge of 1loucharde/s cot. '7ow, if ou don/t mind m asking, *r. 1loucharde, wh would a man such as ourself come to a place like this6 There are far better hospitals in -eville.+ 1loucharde looked angr . 'That police officer5 he bucked me off his motorc cle and then left me bleeding in the street like a stuck pig. I had to walk over here.+ '.e didn/t offer to take ou to a better facilit )+ '#n that godawful bike of his) 7o thanks2+ '(hat e3actl happened this morning)+ 'I told it all to the lieutenant.+ 'I/ve spoken to the officer and"+ 'I hope ou reprimanded him2+ 1loucharde interrupted. !ecker nodded. 'In the severest terms. * office will be following up.+ 'I should hope so.+ '*onsieur 1loucharde.+ !ecker smiled, pulling a pen out of his 0acket pocket. 'I/d like to make a formal complaint to the cit . (ould ou help) A man of our reputation would be a valuable witness.+ 1loucharde looked buo ed b the prospect of being ;uoted. .e sat up. '(h , es5 of course. It would be m pleasure.+ !ecker took out a small note pad and looked up. '#ka , let/s start with this morning. Tell me about the accident.+ The old man sighed. 'It was sad reall . The poor Asian fellow 0ust collapsed. I tried to help him"but it was no use.+ '4ou gave him 1P<)+ 1loucharde looked ashamed. 'I/m afraid I don/t know how. I called an ambulance.+

!ecker remembered the bluish bruises on Tankado/s chest. '&id the paramedics administer 1P<)+ '.eavens, no2+ 1loucharde laughed. '7o reason to whip a dead horse"the fellow was long gone b the time the ambulance got there. The checked his pulse and carted him off, leaving me with that horrific policeman.+ Thats strange, !ecker thought, wondering where the bruise had come from. .e pushed it from his mind and got to the matter at hand. '(hat about the ring)+ he said as nonchalantl as possible. 1loucharde looked surprised. 'The lieutenant told ou about the ring)+ '4es, he did.+ 1loucharde seemed amazed. '<eall ) I didn/t think he believed m stor . .e was so rude"as if he thought I were l ing. !ut m stor was accurate, of course. I pride m self on accurac .+ '(here is the ring)+ !ecker pressed. 1loucharde didn/t seem to hear. .e was glass %e ed, staring into space. '-trange piece reall , all those letters"looked like no language I/d ever seen.+ '?apanese, ma be)+ !ecker offered. '&efinitel not.+ '-o ou got a good look at it)+ '.eavens, es2 (hen I knelt down to help, the man kept pushing his fingers in m face. .e wanted to give me the ring. It was most bizarre, horrible reall "his hands were ;uite dreadful.+ 'And that/s when ou took the ring)+ 1loucharde went wide%e ed. 'That/s what the officer told ou2 That 8 took the ring)+ !ecker shifted uneasil . 1loucharde e3ploded. 'I knew he wasn/t listening2 That/s how rumors get started2 I told him the ?ap fellow gave awa the ring"but not to me4 There/s no wa I would take an thing from a d ing man2 * heavens2 The thought of it2+ !ecker sensed trouble. '-o ou don/t have the ring)+ '.eavens, no2+ A dull ache crept through the pit of his stomach. 'Then who has it)+ 1loucharde glared at !ecker indignantl . 'The 6erman2 The 6erman has it2+ !ecker felt like the floor had been pulled out from under him. '6erman) (hat 6erman)+ 'The 6erman in the park2 I told the officer about him2 I refused the ring but the fascist swine accepted it2+ !ecker set down his pen and paper. The charade was over. This was trouble. '-o a 'erman has the ring)+ 'Indeed.+ '(here did he go)+ '7o idea. I ran to call the police. (hen I got back, he was gone.+ '&o ou know who he was)+ '-ome tourist.+ 'Are ou sure)+ '* life is tourists,+ 1loucharde snapped. 'I know one when I see one. .e and his lad friend were out strolling the park.+ !ecker was more and more confused ever moment. ',ad friend) There was somebod $ith the 6erman)+ 1loucharde nodded. 'An escort. 6orgeous redhead. *on &ieu2 !eautiful.+ 'An escort)+ !ecker was stunned. 'As in5 a prostitute)+ 1loucharde grimaced. '4es, if ou must use the vulgar term.+ '!ut5 the officer said nothing about"+ '#f course not2 I never mentioned the escort.+ 1loucharde dismissed !ecker with a patronizing wave of his good hand. 'The aren/t criminals"it/s absurd that the /re harassed like common thieves.+

!ecker was still in a mild state of shock. '(as there an one else there)+ '7o, 0ust the three of us. It was hot.+ 'And ou/re positive the woman was a prostitute)+ 'Absolutel . 7o woman that beautiful would be with a manlike that unless she were well paid2 *on &ieu2 .e was fat, fat, fat4 A loudmouthed, overweight, obno3ious 6erman2+ 1loucharde winced momentaril as he shifted his weight, but he ignored the pain and plowed on. 'This man was a beast"three hundred pounds at least. .e locked onto that poor dear like she was about to run awa "not that I/d blame her. I mean reall 2 .ands all over her. !ragged that he had her all weekend for three hundred dollars2 <es the one who should have dropped dead, not that poor Asian fellow.+ 1loucharde came up for air, and !ecker 0umped in. '&id ou get his name)+ 1loucharde thought for a moment and then shook his head. '7o idea.+ .e winced in pain again and settled slowl back into his pillows. !ecker sighed. The ring had 0ust evaporated before his e es. 1ommander -trathmore was not going to be happ . 1loucharde dabbed at his forehead. .is burst of enthusiasm had taken its toll. .e suddenl looked ill. !ecker tried another approach. '*r. 1loucharde, I/d like to get a statement from the 6erman and his escort as well. &o ou have an idea where the /re sta ing)+ 1loucharde closed his e es, his strength fading. .is breathing grew shallow. 'An thing at all)+ !ecker pressed. 'The escort/s name) There was a long silence. 1loucharde rubbed his right temple. .e was suddenl looking pale. '(ell5 ah5 no. I don/t believe5+ .is voice was shak . !ecker leaned toward him. 'Are ou all right)+ 1loucharde nodded lightl . '4es, fine5 0ust a little5 the e3citement ma be5+ .e trailed off. 'Think, *r. 1loucharde.+ !ecker urged ;uietl . 'It/s important.+ 1loucharde winced. 'I don/t know5 the woman5 the man kept calling her5+ .e closed his e es and groaned. '(hat was her name)+ 'I reall don/t recall5+ 1loucharde was fading fast. 'Think.+ !ecker prodded. 'It/s important that the consular file be as complete as possible. I/ll need to support our stor with statements from the other witnesses. An information ou can give me to help locate them5+ !ut 1loucharde was not listening. .e was dabbing his forehead with the sheet. 'I/m sorr 5 perhaps tomorrow5+ .e looked nauseated. '*r. 1loucharde, it/s important ou remember this no$.7 !ecker suddenl realized he was speaking too loudl . People on nearb cots were still sitting up watching what was going on. #n the far side of the room a nurse appeared through the double doors and strode briskl toward them. 'An thing at all,+ !ecker pressed urgentl . 'The 6erman called the woman"+ !ecker lightl shook 1loucharde, tr ing to bring him back. 1loucharde/s e es flickered momentaril . '.er name5+ -ta with me, old fella5 '&ew5+ 1loucharde/s e es closed again. The nurse was closing in. -he looked furious. '&ew)+ !ecker shook 1loucharde/s arm. The old man groaned. '.e called her5+ 1loucharde was mumbling now, barel audible. The nurse was less than ten feet awa elling at !ecker in angr -panish. !ecker heard nothing. .is e es were fi3ed on the old man/s lips. .e shook 1loucharde one last time as the nurse bore down on him.

The nurse grabbed &avid !ecker/s shoulder. -he pulled him to his feet 0ust as 1loucharde/s lips parted. The single word leaving the old man/s mouth was not actuall spoken. It was softl sighed"like a distant sensual remembrance. '&ewdrop5+ The scolding grasp anked !ecker awa . De$drop6 !ecker wondered. (hat the he!! &ind of name is De$drop6 .e spun awa from the nurse and turned one last time to 1loucharde. '&ewdrop) Are ou sure67 !ut Pierre 1loucharde was fast asleep.

Chapter 23
-usan sat alone in the plush surroundings of 7ode F. -he nursed a lemon mist herb tea and awaited the return of her tracer. As senior cr ptographer, -usan en0o ed the terminal with the best view. It was on the back side of the ring of computers and faced the 1r pto floor. $rom this spot, -usan could oversee all of 7ode F. -he could also see, on the other side of the one%wa glass, T<A7-,T< standing dead%center of the 1r pto floor. -usan checked the clock. -he had been waiting almost an hour. American <emailers Anon mous was apparentl taking their time forwarding 7orth &akota/s mail. -he sighed heavil . &espite her efforts to forget her morning conversation with &avid, the words pla ed over and over in her head. -he knew she/d been hard on him. -he pra ed he was oka in -pain. .er thoughts were 0arred b the loud hiss of the glass doors. -he looked up and groaned. 1r ptographer 6reg .ale stood in the opening. 6reg .ale was tall and muscular with thick blond hair and a deep cleft chin. .e was loud, thick%fleshed, and perpetuall overdressed. .is fellow cr ptographers had nicknamed him '.alite+" after the mineral. .ale had alwa s assumed it referred to some rare gem"paralleling his unrivaled intellect and rock%hard ph si;ue. .ad his ego permitted him to consult an enc clopedia, he would have discovered it was nothing more than the salt residue left behind when oceans dried up. ,ike all 7-A cr ptographers, .ale made a solid salar . .owever, he had a hard time keeping that fact to himself. .e drove a white ,otus with a moon roof and a deafening subwoofer s stem. .e was a gadget 0unkie, and his car was his showpiece; he/d installed a global positioning computer s stem, voice%activated door locks, a five%point radar 0ammer, and a cellular fa3Hphone so he/d never be out of touch with his message services. .is vanit plate read megab te and was framed in violet neon. 6reg .ale had been rescued from a childhood of pett crime b the D.-. *arine 1orps. It was there that he/d learned about computers. .e was one of the best programmers the *arines had ever seen, well on his wa to a distinguished militar career. !ut two da s before the completion of his third tour of dut , his future suddenl changed. .ale accidentall killed a fellow *arine in a drunken brawl. The Gorean art of self%defense, Tae kwon do, proved more deadl than defensive. .e was promptl relieved of his dut . After serving a brief prison term, .alite began looking for work in the private sector as a programmer. .e was alwa s up front about the incident in the marines, and he courted prospective emplo ers b offering a month/s work without pa to prove his worth. .e had no shortage of takers, and once the found out what he could do with a computer, the never wanted to let him go. As his computer e3pertise grew, .ale began making Internet connections all over the world. .e was one of the new breed of c berfreaks with E%mail friends in ever nation, moving in and out of seed electronic bulletin boards and European chat groups. .e/d been fired b two different emplo ers for using their business accounts to upload pornographic photos to some of his friends. ***

'(hat are you doing here)+ .ale demanded, stopping in the doorwa and staring at -usan. .e/d obviousl e3pected to have 7ode F to himself toda . -usan forced herself to sta cool. 'It/s -aturda , 6reg. I could ask ou the same ;uestion.+ !ut -usan knew what .ale was doing there. .e was the consummate computer addict. &espite the -aturda rule, he often slipped into 1r pto on weekends to use the 7-A/s unrivalled computing power to run new programs he was working on. '?ust wanted to re%tweak a few lines and check m E%mail,+ .ale said. .e e ed her curiousl . '(hat was it ou said you /re doing here)+ 'I didn/t,+ -usan replied. .ale arched a surprised e ebrow. '7o reason to be co . (e have no secrets here in 7ode F, remember) All for one and one for all.+ -usan sipped her lemon mist and ignored him. .ale shrugged and strode toward the 7ode F pantr . The pantr was alwa s his first stop. As .ale crossed the room, he sighed heavil and made a point of ogling -usan/s legs stretched out beneath her terminal. -usan, without looking up, retracted her legs and kept working. .ale smirked. -usan had gotten used to .ale hitting on her. .is favorite line was something about interfacing to check the compatibilit of their hardware. It turned -usan/s stomach. -he was too proud to complain to -trathmore about .ale; it was far easier 0ust to ignore him. .ale approached the 7ode F pantr and pulled open the lattice doors like a bull. .e slid a Tupperware container of tofu out of the fridge and popped a few pieces of the gelatinous white substance in his mouth. Then he leaned on the stove and smoothed his gra !ellvienne slacks and well%starched shirt. '4ou gonna be here long)+ 'All night,+ -usan said flatl . '.mm5+ .alite cooed with his mouth full. 'A coz -aturda in the Pla pen, 0ust the two of us.+ '?ust the three of us,+ -usan inter0ected. '1ommander -trathmore/s upstairs. 4ou might want to disappear before he sees ou.+ .ale shrugged. '.e doesn/t seem to mind you here. .e must reall en0o our compan .+ -usan forced herself to keep silent. .ale chuckled to himself and put awa his tofu. Then he grabbed a ;uart of virgin olive oil and took a few swigs. .e was a health fiend and claimed olive oil cleaned out his lower intestine. (hen he wasn/t pushing carrot 0uice on the rest of the staff, he was preaching the virtues of high colonics. .ale replaced the olive oil and went to down his computer directl opposite -usan. Even across the wide ring of terminals, -usan could smell his cologne. -he crinkled her nose. '7ice cologne, 6reg. Dse the entire bottle) .ale flicked on his terminal. '#nl for ou, dear.+ As he sat there waiting for his terminal to warm up, -usan had a sudden unsettling thought. (hat if .ale accessed T<A7-,T</s <un%*onitor) There was no logical reason wh he would, but nonetheless -usan knew he would never fall for some half%baked stor about a diagnostic that stumped T<A7-,T< for si3teen hours. .ale would demand to know the truth. The truth was something -usan had no intention of telling him. -he did not trust 6reg .ale. .e was not 7-A material. -usan had been against hiring him in the first place, but the 7-A had had no choice. .ale had been the product of damage control. The -kip0ack fiasco. $our ears ago, in an effort to create a single, public%ke encr ption standard, 1ongress charged the nation/s best mathematicians, those at the 7-A, to write a new super algorithm. The plan was for 1ongress to pass legislation that made the new algorithm the nation/s standard, thus alleviating the incompatibilities now suffered b corporations that used different algorithms. #f course, asking the 7-A to lend a hand in improving public%ke encr ption was somewhat akin to asking a condemned man to build his own coffin. T<A7-,T< had not et been conceived,

and an encr ption standard would onl help to proliferate the use of code%writing and make the 7-A/s alread difficult 0ob that much harder. The E$$ understood this conflict of interest and lobbied vehementl that the 7-A might create an algorithm of poor ;ualit "something it could break. To appease these fears, 1ongress announced that when the 7-A/s algorithm was finished, the formula would be published for e3amination b the world/s mathematicians to ensure its ;ualit . <eluctantl , the 7-A/s 1r pto team, led b 1ommander -trathmore, created an algorithm the christened -kip0ack. -kip0ack was presented to 1ongress for their approval. *athematicians from all over the world tested -kip0ack and were unanimousl impressed. The reported that it was a strong, untainted algorithm and would make a superb encr ption standard. !ut three da s before 1ongress was to vote their certain approval of -kip0ack, a oung programmer from !ell ,aboratories, 6reg .ale, shocked the world b announcing he/d found a back door hidden in the algorithm. The back door consisted of a few lines of cunning programming that 1ommander -trathmore had inserted into the algorithm. It had been added in so shrewd a wa that nobod , e3cept 6reg .ale, had seen it. -trathmore/s covert addition, in effect, meant that an code written b -kip0ack could be decr pted via a secret password known onl to the 7-A. -trathmore had come within inches of turning the nation/s proposed encr ption standard into the biggest intelligence coup the 7-A had ever seen; the 7-A would have held the master ke to ever code written in America. The computer%savv public was outraged. The E$$ descended on the scandal like vultures, ripping 1ongress to shreds for their naYvetO and proclaiming the 7-A the biggest threat to the free world since .itler. The encr ption standard was dead. It had come as little surprise when the 7-A hired 6reg .ale two da s later. -trathmore felt it was better to have him on the inside working for the 7-A than on the outside working against it. -trathmore faced the -kip0ack scandal head%on. .e defended his actions vehementl to 1ongress. .e argued that the public/s craving for privac would come back to haunt them. .e insisted the public needed someone to watch over them; the public needed the 7-A to break codes in order to keep the peace. 6roups like the E$$ felt differentl . And the /d been fighting him ever since.

Chapter 24
&avid !ecker stood in a phone booth across the street from ,a 1lUnica de -alud PXblica; he/d 0ust been e0ected for harassing patient number @9L, *onsieur 1loucharde. Things were suddenl more complicated than he/d anticipated. .is little favor to -trathmore" picking up some personal belongings"had turned into a scavenger hunt for some bizarre ring. .e/d 0ust called -trathmore and told him about the 6erman tourist. The news had not been received well. After demanding the specifics, -trathmore had fallen silent for a long time. '&avid,+ he had finall said ver gravel , 'finding that ring is a matter of national securit . I/m leaving it in our hands. &on/t fail me.+ The phone had gone dead. &avid stood in the phone booth and sighed. .e picked up the tattered 6uUa TelefSnica and began scanning the ellow pages. '.ere goes nothing,+ he muttered to himself. There were onl three listings for Escort -ervices in the director , and he didn/t have much to go on. All he knew was that the 6erman/s date had red hair, which convenientl was rare in -pain. The delirious 1loucharde had recalled the escort/s name as &ewdrop. !ecker cringed"&ewdrop) It sounded more like a cow than a beautiful girl. 7ot a good 1atholic name at all; 1loucharde must have been mistaken. !ecker dialed the first number. ***

'-ervicio -ocial de -evilla,+ a pleasant female voice answered. !ecker affected his -panish with a thick 6erman accent. '.ola, Rhablas Aleman)+ '7o. !ut I speak English+ came the repl . !ecker continued in broken English. 'Thank ou. I wondering if ou to help me)+ '.ow can we be of service)+ The woman spoke slowl in an effort to aid her potential client. 'Perhaps ou would like an escort)+ '4es, please. Toda m brother, Glaus, he has girl, ver beautiful. <ed hair. I want same. $or tomorrow, please.+ '4our brother Glaus comes here)+ The voice was suddenl effervescent, like the were old friends. '4es. .e ver fat. 4ou remember him, no)+ '.e was here toda , ou sa )+ !ecker could hear her checking the books. There would be no Glaus listed, but !ecker figured clients seldom used their real names. '.mm, I/m sorr ,+ she apologized. 'I don/t see him here. (hat was the girl/s name our brother was with)+ '.ad red hair,+ !ecker said, avoiding the ;uestion. '<ed hair)+ she repeated. There was a pause. 'This is -ervicio -ocial de -evilla. Are ou sure our brother comes here)+ '-ure, es.+ '-eWor, we have no redheads. (e have onl pure Andalusian beauties.+ '<ed hair,+ !ecker repeated, feeling stupid. 'I/m sorr , we have no redheads at all, but if ou"+ '7ame is &ewdrop,+ !ecker blurted, feeling even stupider. The ridiculous name apparentl meant nothing to the woman. -he apologized, suggested !ecker was confusing her with another agenc , and politel hung up. -trike one. *** !ecker frowned and dialed the ne3t number. It connected immediatel . '!uenas noches, *u0eres EspaWa. *a I help ou)+ !ecker launched into his same spiel, a 6erman tourist who was willing to pa top dollar for the red%haired girl who was out with his brother toda . This time the response was in polite 6erman, but again no redheads. 'Geine <otkZpfe, I/m sorr .+ The woman hung up. -trike two. !ecker looked down at the phone book. There was onl one number left. The end of the rope alread . .e dialed. *** 'Escortes !elOn,+ a man answered in a ver slick tone. Again !ecker told his stor . '-U, sU, seWor. * name is -eWor <oldTn. I would be pleased to help. (e have two redheads. ,ovel girls.+ !ecker/s heart leapt. ':er beautiful)+ he repeated in his 6erman accent. '<ed hair)+ '4es, what is our brother/s name) I will tell ou who was his escort toda . And we can send her to ou tomorrow.+

'Glaus -chmidt.+ !ecker blurted a name recalled from an old te3tbook. A long pause. '(ell, sir5 I don/t see a Glaus -chmidt on our registr , but perhaps our brother chose to be discreet"perhaps a wife at home)+ .e laughed inappropriatel . '4es, Glaus married. !ut he ver fat. .is wife no lie with him.+ !ecker rolled his e es at himself reflected in the booth. 8f Susan ou!d hear me no$, he thought. 'I fat and lonel too. I want lie with her. Pa lots of mone .+ !ecker was giving an impressive performance, but he/d gone too far. Prostitution was illegal in -pain, and -eWor <oldTn was a careful man. .e/d been burned before b 6uardia officials posing as eager tourists. 8 $ant !ie $ith her. <oldTn knew it was a setup. If he said es, he would be heavil fined and, as alwa s, forced to provide one of his most talented escorts to the police commissioner free of charge for an entire weekend. (hen <oldTn spoke, his voice not ;uite as friendl . '-ir, this is Escortes !elOn. *a I ask who/s calling)+ 'Aah5 -igmund -chmidt,+ !ecker invented weakl . '(here did ou get our number)+ ',a 6uUa TelefSnica" ellow pages.+ '4es, sir, that/s because we are an escort service.+ '4es. I want escort.+ !ecker sensed something was wrong. '-ir, Escortes !elOn is a service providing escorts to businessmen for luncheons and dinners. This is wh we are listed in the phone book. (hat we do is legal. (hat ou are looking for is a prostitute.7 The word slid off his tongue like a vile disease. '!ut m brother5+ '-ir, if our brother spent the da kissing a girl in the park, she was not one of ours. (e have strict regulations about client%escort contact.+ '!ut5+ '4ou have us confused with someone else. (e onl have two redheads, Inmaculada and <ocUo, and neither would allow a man to sleep with them for mone . That is called prostitution, and it is illegal in -pain. 6ood night, sir.+ '!ut"+ 1,I1G. !ecker swore under his breath and dropped the phone back into its cradle. -trike three. .e was certain 1loucharde had said the 6erman had hired the girl for the entire weekend. *** !ecker stepped out of the phone booth at the intersection of 1alle -alado and Avenida AsunciSn. &espite the traffic, the sweet scent of -eville oranges hung all around him. It was twilight"the most romantic hour. .e thought of -usan. -trathmore/s words invaded his mindC Find the ring. !ecker flopped miserabl on a bench and pondered his ne3t move. (hat move)

Chapter 25
Inside the 1lUnica de -alud PXblica, visiting hours were over. The g mnasium lights had been turned out. Pierre 1loucharde was fast asleep. .e did not see the figure hunched over him. The needle of a stolen s ringe glinted in the dark. Then it disappeared into the I: tube 0ust above 1loucharde/s wrist. The h podermic contained F9 cc of cleaning fluid stolen from a 0anitor/s cart. (ith great force, a strong thumb rammed the plunger down and forced the bluish li;uid into the old man/s veins. 1loucharde was awake onl for a few seconds. .e might have screamed in pain had a strong hand not been clamped across his mouth. .e la trapped on his cot, pinned beneath a seemingl

immovable weight. .e could feel the pocket of fire searing its wa up his arm. There was an e3cruciating pain traveling through his armpit, his chest, and then, like a million shattering pieces of glass, it hit his brain. 1loucharde saw a brilliant flash of light5 and then nothing. The visitor released his grip and peered through the darkness at the name on the medical chart. Then he slipped silentl out. #n the street, the man in wire%rim glasses reached to a tin device attached to his belt. The rectangular pack was about the size of a credit card. It was a protot pe of the new *onocle computer. &eveloped b the D.-. 7av to help technicians record batter voltages in cramped ;uarters on submarines, the miniature computer packed a cellular modem and the newest advances in micro technolog . Its visual monitor was a transparent li;uid cr stal displa , mounted in the left lens of a pair of e eglasses. The *onocle reflected a whole new age in personal computing; the user could now look through his data and still interact with the world around him. The *onocle/s real coup, though, was not its miniature displa but rather its data entr s stem. A user entered information via tin contacts fi3ed to his fingertips; touching the contacts together in se;uence mimicked a shorthand similar to court stenograph . The computer would then translate the shorthand into English. The killer pressed a tin switch, and his glasses flickered to life. .is hands inconspicuousl at his sides, he began touching different fingertips together in rapid succession. A message appeared before his e es.
-D!?E1TC P. 1,#D1.A<&E"TE<*I7ATE&

.e smiled. Transmitting notification of kills was part of his assignment. !ut including victim/s names5 that, to the man in the wire%rim glasses, was elegance. .is fingers flashed again, and his cellular modem activated.
*E--A6E -E7T

Chapter 26
-itting on the bench across from the public clinic, !ecker wondered what he was supposed to do now. .is calls to the escort agencies had turned up nothing. The commander, uneas about communication over unsecured public phones, had asked &avid not to call again until he had the ring. !ecker considered going to the local police for help"ma be the had a record of a red%headed hooker"but -trathmore had given strict orders about that too. %ou are in.isib!e. #o one is to &no$ this ring exists. !ecker wondered if he was supposed to wander the drugged%out district of Triana in search of this m ster woman. #r ma be he was supposed to check all the restaurants for an obese 6erman. Ever thing seemed like a waste of time. -trathmore/s words kept coming backC It/s a matter of national securit 5 ou must find that ring. A voice in the back of !ecker/s head told him he/d missed something"something crucial"but for the life of him, he couldn/t think what it would be. 8m a tea her, not a damned se ret agent4 .e was beginning to wonder wh -trathmore hadn/t sent a professional. !ecker stood up and walked aimlessl down 1alle &elicias pondering his options. The cobblestone sidewalk blurred beneath his gaze. 7ight was falling fast. &ewdrop.

There was something about that absurd name that nagged at the back of his mind. De$drop. The slick voice of -eWor <oldTn at Escortes !elOn was on endless loop in his head. 5(e on!y ha.e t$o redheads T$o redheads, 8nma u!ada and >o Ao >o Ao >o Ao7 !ecker stopped short. .e suddenl knew. And 8 a!! myse!f a !anguage spe ia!ist6 .e couldn/t believe he/d missed it. <ocUo was one of the most popular girl/s names in -pain. It carried all the right implications for a oung 1atholic girl"purit , virginit , natural beaut . The connotations of purit all stemmed from the name/s literal meaning=Drop of De$4 The old 1anadian/s voice rang in !ecker/s ears. De$drop. <ocUo had translated her name to the onl language she and her client had in common"English. E3cited, !ecker hurried off to find a phone. Across the street, a man in wire%rim glasses followed 0ust out of sight.

Chapter 27
#n the 1r pto floor, the shadows were growing long and faint. #verhead, the automatic lighting graduall increased to compensate. -usan was still at her terminal silentl awaiting news from her tracer. It was taking longer than e3pected. .er mind had been wandering"missing &avid and willing 6reg .ale to go home. Although .ale hadn/t budged, thankfull he/d been silent, engrossed in whatever he was doing at his terminal. -usan couldn/t care less what .ale was doing, as long as he didn/t access the <un%*onitor. .e obviousl hadn/t"si3teen hours would have brought an audible elp of disbelief. -usan was sipping her third cup of tea when it finall happened"her terminal beeped once. .er pulse ;uickened. A flashing envelope icon appeared on her monitor announcing the arrival of E%mail. -usan shot a ;uick glance toward .ale. .e was absorbed in his work. -he held her breath and double%clicked the envelope. '7orth &akota,+ she whispered to herself. ',et/s see who ou are.+ (hen the E%mail opened, it was a single line. -usan read it. And then she read it again.
&I77E< AT A,$<E&#/-) J P*)

Across the room, .ale muffled a chuckle. -usan checked the message header.
$<#*C 6.A,EQcr pto.nsa.gov

-usan felt a surge of anger but fought it off. -he deleted the message. ':er mature, 6reg.+ 'The make a great carpaccio.+ .ale smiled. '(hat do ou sa ) Afterward we could"+ '$orget it.+ '-nob.+ .ale sighed and turned back to his terminal. That was strike eight %nine with -usan $letcher. The brilliant female cr ptographer was a constant frustration to him. .ale had often fantasized about having se3 with her"pinning her against T<A7-,T</s curved hull and taking her right there against the warm black tile. !ut -usan would have nothing to do with him. In .ale/s mind, what made things worse was that she was in love with some universit teacher who slaved for hours on end for peanuts. It would be a pit for -usan to dilute her superior gene pool procreating with some geek"particularl when she could have 6reg. (ed ha.e perfe t hi!dren, he thought. '(hat are ou working on)+ .ale asked, tr ing a different approach. -usan said nothing.

'-ome team pla er you are. -ure I can/t have a peek)+ .ale stood and started moving around the circle of terminals toward her. -usan sensed that .ale/s curiosit had the potential to cause some serious problems toda . -he made a snap decision. 'It/s a diagnostic,+ she offered, falling back on the commander/s lie. .ale stopped in his tracks. '&iagnostic)+ .e sounded doubtful. '4ou/re spending -aturda running a diagnostic instead of pla ing with the prof)+ '.is name is &avid.+ '(hatever.+ -usan glared at him. '.aven/t ou got an thing better to do)+ 'Are ou tr ing to get rid of me)+ .ale pouted. 'Actuall , es.+ '6ee, -ue, I/m hurt.+ -usan $letcher/s e es narrowed. -he hated being called -ue. -he had nothing against the nickname, but .ale was the onl one who/d ever used it. '(h don/t I help ou)+ .ale offered. .e was suddenl circling toward her again. 'I/m great with diagnostics. !esides, I/m d ing to see what diagnostic could make the might -usan $letcher come to work on a -aturda .+ -usan felt a surge of adrenaline. -he glanced down at the tracer on her screen. -he knew she couldn/t let .ale see it"he/d have too man ;uestions. 'I/ve got it covered, 6reg,+ she said. !ut .ale kept coming. As he circled toward her terminal, -usan knew she had to act fast. .ale was onl a few ards awa when she made her move. -he stood to meet his towering frame, blocking his wa . .is cologne was overpowering. -he looked him straight in the e e. 'I said no.+ .ale cocked his head, apparentl intrigued b her odd displa of secrec . .e pla full stepped closer. 6reg .ale was not read for what happened ne3t. (ith unwavering cool, -usan pressed a single inde3 finger against his rock%hard chest, stopping his forward motion. .ale halted and stepped back in shock. Apparentl -usan $letcher was serious; she had ne.er touched him before, ever. It wasn/t ;uite what .ale had had in mind for their first contact, but it was a start. .e gave her a long puzzled look and slowl returned to his terminal. As he sat back down, one thing became perfectl clearC The lovel -usan $letcher was working on something important, and it sure as hell wasn/t an diagnostic.

Chapter 28
-eWor <oldTn was sitting behind his desk at Escortes !elOn congratulating himself for deftl sidestepping the 6uardia/s newest pathetic attempt to trap him. .aving an officer fake a 6erman accent and re;uest a girl for the night"it was entrapment; what would the think of ne3t) The phone on his desk buzzed loudl . -eWor <oldTn scooped up the receiver with a confident flair. '!uenas noches, Escortes !elOn.+ '!uenas noches,+ a man/s voice said in lightning%fast -panish. .e sounded nasal, like he had a slight cold. 'Is this a hotel)+ '7o, sir. (hat number are ou dialing)+ -eWor <oldTn was not going to fall for an more tricks this evening. 'FL%8=%@9,+ the voice said. <oldTn frowned. The voice sounded vaguel familiar. .e tried to place the accent"!urgos, ma be) '4ou/ve dialed the correct number,+ <oldTn offered cautiousl , 'but this is an escort service.+ There was a pause on the line. '#h5 I see. I/m sorr . -omebod wrote down this number; I thought it was a hotel. I/m visiting here, from !urgos. * apologies for disturbing ou. 6ood nigh"+

'EspOre2 (ait2+ -eWor <oldTn couldn/t help himself; he was a salesman at heart. (as this a referral) A new client from up north) .e wasn/t going to let a little paranoia blow a potential sale. '* friend,+ <oldTn gushed into the phone. 'I thought I recognized a bit of a !urgos accent on ou. I m self am from :alencia. (hat brings ou to -eville)+ 'I sell 0ewelr . *a0Srica pearls.+ '*a0Sricas, reeaall 2 4ou must travel ;uite a bit.+ The voice coughed sickl . '(ell, es, I do.+ 'In -eville on business)+ <oldTn pressed. There was no wa in hell this gu was 6uardia; he was a customer with a capital 1. ',et me guess"a friend gave ou our number) .e told ou to give us a call. Am I right)+ The voice was obviousl embarrassed. '(ell, no, actuall , it/s nothing like that.+ '&on/t be sh , seWor. (e are an escort service, nothing to be ashamed of. ,ovel girls, dinner dates, that is all. (ho gave ou our number) Perhaps he is a regular. I can give ou a special rate.+ The voice became flustered. 'Ah5 nobod actuall ga.e me this number. I found it with a passport. I/m tr ing to find the owner.+ <oldTn/s heart sank. This man was not a customer after all. '4ou found the number, ou sa )+ '4es, I found a man/s passport in the park toda . 4our number was on a scrap of paper inside. I thought perhaps it was the man/s hotel; I was hoping to return his passport to him. * mistake. I/ll 0ust drop it off at a police station on m wa out of"+ 'PerdSn,+ <oldTn interrupted nervousl . '*ight I suggest a better idea)+ <oldTn prided himself on discretion, and visits to the 6uardia had a wa of making his customers e3%customers. '1onsider this,+ he offered. '!ecause the man with the passport had our number, he is most likel a client here. Perhaps I could save ou a trip to the police.+ The voice hesitated. 'I don/t know. I should probabl 0ust"+ '&o not be too hast , m friend. I/m ashamed to admit that the police here in -eville are not alwa s as efficient as the police up north. It could be days before this man/s passport is returned to him. If ou tell me his name, I could see that he gets his passport immediate!y.7 '4es, well5 I suppose there/s no harm5+ -ome paper rustled, and the voice returned. 'It/s a 6erman name. I can/t ;uite pronounce it5 6usta5 6ustafson)+ <oldTn didn/t recognize the name, but he had clients from all over the world. The never left their real names. '(hat does he look like"in his photo) Perhaps I will recognize him.+ '(ell5+ the voice said. '.is face is ver , ver fat.+ <oldTn immediatel knew. .e remembered the obese face well. It was the man with <ocUo. It was odd, he thought, to have two calls about the 6erman in one night. '*r. 6ustafson)+ <oldTn forced a chuckle. '#f course2 I know him well. If ou bring me his passport, I/ll see he gets it.+ 'I/m downtown without a car,+ the voice interrupted. '*a be ou could come to me)+ 'Actuall ,+ <oldTn hedged, 'I can/t leave the phone. !ut it/s reall not that far if ou"+ 'I/m sorr , it/s late to be out wandering about. There/s a 6uardia precinct nearb . I/ll drop it there, and when ou see *r. 6ustafson, ou can tell him where it is.+ '7o, wait2+ <oldTn cried. 'The police reall needn/t be involved. 4ou said ou/re downtown, right) &o ou know the Alfonso [III .otel) It/s one of the cit /s finest.+ '4es,+ the voice said. 'I know the Alfonso [III. It/s nearb .+ '(onderful2 *r. 6ustafson is a guest there tonight. .e/s probabl there now.+ The voice hesitated. 'I see. (ell, then5 I suppose it would be no trouble.+ '-uperb2 .e/s having dinner with one of our escorts in the hotel restaurant.+ <oldTn knew the were probabl in bed b now, but he needed to be careful not to offend the caller/s refined sensibilities. '?ust leave the passport with the concierge, his name is *anuel. Tell him I sent ou. Ask him to give it to <ocUo. <ocUo is *r. 6ustafson/s date for the evening. -he will see that the passport is returned. 4ou might slip our name and address inside"perhaps *r. 6ustafson will send ou a little thank ou.+

'A fine idea. The Alfonso [III. :er well, I/ll take it over right now. Thank ou for our help.+ *** &avid !ecker hung up the phone. 'Alfonso [III.+ .e chuckled. '?ust have to know how to ask.+ *oments later a silent figure followed !ecker up 1alle &eliciasinto the softl Andalusian night. settling

Chapter 29
-till unnerved from her encounter with .ale, -usan gazed out through the one%wa glass of 7ode F. The 1r pto floor was empt . .ale was silent again, engrossed. -he wished he would leave. -he wondered if she should call -trathmore; the commander could simpl kick .ale out"after all, it $as -aturda . -usan knew, however, that if .ale got kicked out, he would immediatel become suspicious. #nce dismissed, he probabl would start calling other cr ptographers asking what the thought was going on. -usan decided it was better 0ust to let .ale be. .e would leave on his own soon enough. An unbrea&ab!e a!gorithm. -he sighed, her thoughts returning to &igital $ortress. It amazed her that an algorithm like that could reall be created"then again, the proof was right there in front of her; T<A7-,T< appeared useless against it. -usan thought of -trathmore, nobl bearing the weight of this ordeal on his shoulders, doing what was necessar , sta ing cool in the face of disaster. -usan sometimes saw &avid in -trathmore. The had man of the same ;ualities"tenacit , dedication, intelligence. -ometimes -usan thought -trathmore would be lost without her; the purit of her love for cr ptograph seemed to be an emotional lifeline to -trathmore, lifting him from the sea of churning politics and reminding him of his earl da s as a code%breaker. -usan relied on -trathmore too; he was her shelter in a world of power%hungr men, nurturing her career, protecting her, and, as he often 0oked, making all her dreams come true. There was some truth to that, she thought. As unintentional as it ma have been, the commander was the one who/d made the call that brought &avid !ecker to the 7-A that fateful afternoon. .er mind reeled back to him, and her e es fell instinctivel to the pull%slide beside her ke board. There was a small fa3 taped there. The fa3 had been there for seven months. It was the onl code -usan $letcher had et to break. It was from &avid. -he read it for the five%hundredth time.
P,EA-E A11EPT T.I- .D*!,E $A[

*4 ,#:E $#< 4#D I- (IT.#DT (A[.

.e/d sent it to her after a minor tiff. -he/d begged him for months to tell her what it meant, but he had refused. (ithout $ax. It was &avid/s revenge. -usan had taught &avid a lot about code%breaking, and to keep him on his toes, she had taken to encoding all of her messages to him with some simple encr ption scheme. -hopping lists, love notes"the were all encr pted. It was a game, and &avid had become ;uite a good cr ptographer. Then he/d decided to return the favor. .e/d started signing all his letters '(ithout wa3, &avid.+ -usan had over two dozen notes from &avid. The were all signed the same wa . (ithout $ax.

-usan begged to know the hidden meaning, but &avid wasn/t talking. (henever she asked, he simpl smiled and said, 5%oure the code%breaker.+ The 7-A/s head cr ptographer had tried ever thing"substitutions, cipher bo3es, even anagrams. -he/d run the letters 'without wa3+ through her computer and asked for rearrangements of the letters into new phrases. All she/d gotten back wasC ta3i hut wow. It appeared Ensei Tankado was not the onl one who could write unbreakable codes. .er thoughts were interrupted b the sound of the pneumatic doors hissing open. -trathmore strode in. '-usan, an word et)+ -trathmore saw 6reg .ale and stopped short. '(ell, good evening, *r. .ale.+ .e frowned, his e es narrowing. '#n a -aturda , no less. To what do we owe the honor)+ .ale smiled innocentl . '?ust making sure I pull m weight.+ 'I see.+ -trathmore grunted, apparentl weighing his options. After a moment, it seemed he too decided not to rock .ale/s boat. .e turned cooll to -usan. '*s. $letcher, could I speak to ou for a moment) )utside67 -usan hesitated. 'Ah5 es, sir.+ -he shot an uneas glance at her monitor and then across the room at 6reg .ale. '?ust a minute.+ (ith a few ;uick ke strokes, she pulled up a program called -creen,ock. It was a privac utilit . Ever terminal in 7ode F was e;uipped with it. !ecause the terminals sta ed on around the clock, -creen,ock enabled cr ptographers to leave their stations and know that nobod would tamper with their files. -usan entered her five%character privac code, and her screen went black. It would remain that wa until she returned and t ped the proper se;uence. Then she slipped on her shoes and followed the commander out. *** '(hat the hell is he doing here)+ -trathmore demanded as soon as he and -usan were outside 7ode F. '.is usual,+ -usan replied. '7othing.+ -trathmore looked concerned. '.as he said an thing about T<A7-,T<)+ '7o. !ut if he accesses the <un%*onitor and sees it registering seventeen hours, he/ll have something to sa all right.+ -trathmore considered it. 'There/s no reason he/d access it.+ -usan e ed the commander. '4ou want to send him home)+ '7o. (e/ll let him be.+ -trathmore glanced over at the - s%-ec office. '.as 1hartrukian left et)+ 'I don/t know. I haven/t seen him.+ '?esus.+ -trathmore groaned. 'This is a circus.+ .e ran a hand across the beard stubble that had darkened his face over the past thirt %si3 hours. 'An word et on the tracer) I feel like I/m sitting on m hands up there.+ '7ot et. An word from &avid)+ -trathmore shook his head. 'I asked him not to call me until he has the ring.+ -usan looked surprised. '(h not) (hat if he needs help)+ -trathmore shrugged. 'I can/t help him from here"he/s on his own. !esides, I/d rather not talk on unsecured lines 0ust in case someone/s listening.+ -usan/s e es widened in concern. '(hat/s that supposed to mean)+ -trathmore immediatel looked apologetic. .e gave her a reassuring smile. '&avid/s fine. I/m 0ust being careful.+ ***

Thirt feet awa from their conversation, hidden behind the one%wa glass of 7ode F, 6reg .ale stood at -usan/s terminal. .er screen was black. .ale glanced out at the commander and -usan. Then he reached for his wallet. .e e3tracted a small inde3 card and read it. &ouble%checking that -trathmore and -usan were still talking, .ale carefull t ped five ke strokes on -usan/s ke board. A second later her monitor sprang to life. '!ingo.+ .e chuckled. -tealing the 7ode F privac codes had been simple. In 7ode F, ever terminal had an identical detachable ke board. .ale had simpl taken his ke board home one night and installed a chip that kept a record of ever ke stroke made on it. Then he had come in earl , swapped his modified ke board for someone else/s, and waited. At the end of the da , he switched back and viewed the data recorded b the chip. Even though there were millions of ke strokes to sort through, finding the access code was simple; the first thing a cr ptographer did ever morning was t pe the privac code that unlocked his terminal. This, of course, made .ale/s 0ob effortless"the privac code alwa s appeared as the first five characters on the list. It was ironic, .ale thought as he gazed at -usan/s monitor. .e/d stolen the privac codes 0ust for kicks. .e was happ now he/d done it; the program on -usan/s screen looked significant. .ale puzzled over it for a moment. It was written in ,I*!#"not one of his specialties. ?ust b looking at it, though, .ale could tell one thing for certain"this was not a diagnostic. .e could make sense of onl two words. !ut the were enough.
T<A1E< -EA<1.I765

'Tracer)+ he said aloud. '-earching for $hat67 .ale felt suddenl uneas . .e sat a moment stud ing -usan/s screen. Then he made his decision. .ale understood enough about the ,I*!# programming language to know that it borrowed heavil from two other languages"1 and Pascal"both of which he knew cold. 6lancing up to check that -trathmore and -usan were still talking outside, .ale improvised. .e entered a few modified Pascal commands and hit return. The tracer/s status window responded e3actl as he had hoped.
T<A1E< A!#<T)

.e ;uickl t pedC 4EA<E 4#D -D<E)

Again he t pedC 4EAfter a moment the computer beeped.


T<A1E< A!#<TE&

.ale smiled. The terminal had 0ust sent a message telling -usan/s tracer to self%destruct prematurel . (hatever she was looking for would have to wait. *indful to leave no evidence, .ale e3pertl navigated his wa into her s stem activit log and deleted all the commands he/d 0ust t ped. Then he reentered -usan/s privac code.

The monitor went black. (hen -usan $letcher returned to 7ode F, 6reg .ale was seated ;uietl at his terminal.

Chapter 30
Alfonso [III was a small four%star hotel set back from the Puerta de ?erez and surrounded b a thick wrought%iron fence and lilacs. &avid made his wa up the marble stairs. As he reached for the door, it magicall opened, and a bellhop ushered him inside. '!aggage, seWor) *a I help ou)+ '7o, thanks. I need to see the concierge.+ The bellhop looked hurt, as if something in their two%second encounter had not been satisfactor . 'Por a;uU, seWor.+ .e led !ecker into the lobb , pointed to the concierge, and hurried off. The lobb was e3;uisite, small and elegantl appointed. -pain/s 6olden Age had long since passed, but for a while in the mid%@899s, this small nation had ruled the world. The room was a proud reminder of that era"suits of armor, militar etchings, and a displa case of gold ingots from the 7ew (orld. .overing behind the counter marked conser0e was a trim, well%groomed man smiling so eagerl that it appeared he/d waited his entire life to be of assistance. 'En ;uO puedo servirle, seWor) .ow ma I serve ou)+ .e spoke with an affected lisp and ran his e es up and down !ecker/s bod . !ecker responded in -panish. 'I need to speak to *anuel.+ The man/s well%tanned face smiled even wider. '-U, sU, seWor. I am *anuel. (hat is it ou desire)+ '-eWor <oldTn at Escortes !elOn told me ou would"+ The concierge silenced !ecker with a wave and glanced nervousl around the lobb . '(h don/t ou step over here)+ .e led !ecker to the end of the counter. '7ow,+ he continued, practicall in a whisper. '.ow ma I help ou)+ !ecker began again, lowering his voice. 'I need to speak to one of his escorts whom I believe is dining here. .er name is <ocUo.+ The concierge let out his breath as though overwhelmed. 'Aaah, <ocUo"a beautiful creature.+ 'I need to see her immediatel .+ '!ut, seWor, she is with a client.+ !ecker nodded apologeticall . 'It/s important.+ A matter of nationa! se urity. The concierge shook his head. 'Impossible. Perhaps if ou left a"+ 'It will onl take a moment. Is she in the dining room)+ The concierge shook his head. '#ur dining room closed half an hour ago. I/m afraid <ocUo and her guest have retired for the evening. If ou/d like to leave me a message, I can give it to her in the morning.+ .e motioned to the bank of numbered message bo3es behind him. 'If I could 0ust call her room and"+ 'I/m sorr ,+ the concierge said, his politeness evaporating. 'The Alfonso [III has strict policies regarding client privac .+ !ecker had no intention of waiting ten hours for a fat man and a prostitute to wander down for breakfast. 'I understand,+ !ecker said. '-orr to bother ou.+ .e turned and walked back into the lobb . .e strode directl to a cherr roll%top desk that had caught his e e on his wa in. It held a generous suppl of Alfonso [III postcards and stationer as well as pens and envelopes. !ecker sealed a blank piece of paper in an envelope and wrote one word on the envelope. ROCO.

Then he went back to the concierge. 'I/m sorr to trouble ou again,+ !ecker said approaching sheepishl . 'I/m being a bit of a fool, I know. I was hoping to tell <ocUo personall how much I en0o ed our time together the other da . !ut I/m leaving town tonight. Perhaps I/ll 0ust leave her a note after all.+ !ecker laid the envelope on the counter. The concierge looked down at the envelope and clucked sadl to himself. Another !o.esi & heterosexua!, he thought. (hat a $aste. .e looked up and smiled. '!ut of course, *r. 5)+ '!uisTn,+ !ecker said. '*iguel !uisTn.+ '#f course. I/ll be sure <ocUo gets this in the morning.+ 'Thank ou.+ !ecker smiled and turned to go. The concierge, after discreetl checking out !ecker/s backside, scooped up the envelope off the counter and turned to the bank of numbered slots on the wall behind him. ?ust as the man slipped the envelope into one of the slots, !ecker spun with one final in;uir . '(here might I call a ta3i)+ The concierge turned from the wall of cubb holes and answered. !ut !ecker did not hear his response. The timing had been perfect. The concierge/s hand was 0ust emerging from a bo3 marked -uite F9@. !ecker thanked the concierge and slowl wandered off looking for the elevator. 8n and out, he repeated to himself.

Chapter 31
-usan returned to 7ode F. .er conversation with -trathmore had made her increasingl an3ious about &avid/s safet . .er imagination was running wild. '-o,+ .ale spouted from his terminal. '(hat did -trathmore want) A romantic evening alone with his head cr ptographer)+ -usan ignored the comment and settled in at her terminal. -he t ped her privac code and the screen came to life. The tracer program came into view; it still had not returned an information on 7orth &akota. &amn, -usan thought. (hat/s taking so long) '4ou seem uptight,+ .ale said innocentl . '.aving trouble with our diagnostic)+ '7othing serious,+ she replied. !ut -usan wasn/t so sure. The tracer was overdue. -he wondered if ma be she/d made a mistake while writing it. -he began scanning the long lines of ,I*!# programming on her screen, searching for an thing that could be holding things up. .ale observed her smugl . '.e , I meant to ask ou,+ he ventured. '(hat do ou make of that unbreakable algorithm Ensei Tankado said he was writing)+ -usan/s stomach did a flip. -he looked up. 'Dnbreakable algorithm)+ -he caught herself. '#h, eah5 I think I read something about that.+ 'Prett incredible claim.+ '4eah,+ -usan replied, wondering wh .ale had suddenl brought it up. 'I don/t bu it, though. Ever one knows an unbreakable algorithm is a mathematical impossibilit .+ .ale smiled. '#h, eah5 the !ergofsk Principle.+ 'And common sense,+ she snapped. '(ho knows5+ .ale sighed dramaticall . 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosoph .+ 'I beg our pardon)+ '-hakespeare,+ .ale offered. '<am!et.7 '<ead a lot while ou were in 0ail)+ .ale chuckled. '-eriousl , -usan, did ou ever think that ma be it is possible, that ma be Tankado reall did write an unbreakable algorithm)+ This conversation was making -usan uneas . '(ell, $e couldn/t do it.+ '*a be Tankado/s better than we are.+

'*a be.+ -usan shrugged, feigning disinterest. '(e corresponded for a while,+ .ale offered casuall . 'Tankado and me. &id ou know that)+ -usan looked up, attempting to hide her shock. '<eall )+ '4eah. After I uncovered the -kip0ack algorithm, he wrote me"said we were brothers in the global fight for digital privac .+ -usan could barel contain her disbelief. <a!e &no$s Tan&ado persona!!y4 -he did her best to look uninterested. .ale went on. '.e congratulated me for proving that -kip0ack had a back door"called it a coup for privac rights of civilians all over the world. 4ou gotta admit, -usan, the backdoor in -kip0ack was an underhanded pla . <eading the world/s E%mail) If ou ask me, -trathmore deser.ed to get caught.+ '6reg,+ -usan snapped, fighting her anger, 'that back door was so the 7-A could decode E%mail that threatened this nation/s securit .+ '#h, reall )+ .ale sighed innocentl . 'And snooping the average citizen was 0ust a luck b %product)+ '(e don/t snoop average citizens, and ou know it. The $!I can tap telephones, but that doesn/t mean the listen to e.ery call that/s ever made.+ 'If the had the manpower, the would.+ -usan ignored the remark. '6overnments should have the right to gather information that threatens the common good.+ '?esus 1hrist+".ale sighed"+ ou sound like ou/ve been brainwashed b -trathmore. 4ou know damn well the $!I can/t listen in whenever the want"the /ve got to get a warrant. A spiked encr ption standard would mean the 7-A could listen in to anyone, anytime, any$here.7 '4ou/re right"as we shou!d be able to2+ -usan/s voice was suddenl harsh. 'If ou hadn/t uncovered the back door in -kip0ack, we/d have access to e.ery code we need to break, instead of 0ust what T<A7-,T< can handle.+ 'If I hadn/t found the back door,+ .ale argued, 'someone else would have. I saved our asses b uncovering it when I did. 1an ou imagine the fallout if -kip0ack had been in circulation when the news broke)+ 'Either wa ,+ -usan shot back, 'now we/ve got a paranoid E$$ who think we put back doors in a!! our algorithms.+ .ale asked smugl , '(ell, don/t we)+ -usan e ed him coldl . '.e ,+ he said, backing off, 'the point is moot now an wa . 4ou built T<A7-,T<. 4ou/ve got our instant information source. 4ou can read $hat ou want, $hen ou want"no ;uestions asked. 4ou win.+ '&on/t ou mean $e win) ,ast I heard, ou worked for the 7-A.+ '7ot for long,+ .ale chirped. '&on/t make promises.+ 'I/m serious. -omeda I/m getting out of here.+ 'I/ll be crushed.+ In that moment, -usan found herself wanting to curse .ale for ever thing that wasn/t going right. -he wanted to curse him for &igital $ortress, for her troubles with &avid, for the fact that she wasn/t in the -mok s"but none of it was his fault. .ale/s onl fault was that he was obno3ious. -usan needed to be the bigger person. It was her responsibilit as head cr ptographer to keep the peace, to educate. .ale was oung and n\ive. -usan looked over at him. It was frustrating, she thought, that .ale had the talent to be an asset in 1r pto, but he still hadn/t grasped the importance of what the 7-A did. '6reg,+ -usan said, her voice ;uiet and controlled, 'I/m under a lot of pressure toda . I 0ust get upset when ou talk about the 7-A like we/re some kind of high%tech peeping Tom. This organization was founded for one purpose"to protect the securit of this nation. That ma involve

shaking a few trees and looking for the bad apples from time to time. I think most citizens would gladl sacrifice some privac to know that the bad gu s can/t maneuver unchecked.+ .ale said nothing. '-ooner or later,+ -usan argued, 'the people of this nation need to put their trust somewhere. There/s a lot of good out there"but there/s also a lot of bad mi3ed in. -omeone has to have access to all of it and separate the right from wrong. That/s our 0ob. That/s our dut . (hether we like it or not, there is a frail gate separating democrac from anarch . The 7-A guards that gate.+ .ale nodded thoughtfull . 'Buis custodiet ipsos custodes)+ -usan looked puzzled. 'It/s ,atin,+ .ale said. '$rom Satires of ?uvenal. It means E(ho will guard the guards)/ ' 'I don/t get it,+ -usan said. ' E(ho will guard the guards)/ ' '4eah. If $ere the guards of societ , then who will watch us and make sure that $ere not dangerous)+ -usan nodded, unsure how to respond. .ale smiled. 'It/s how Tankado signed all his letters to me. It was his favorite sa ing.+

Chapter 32
&avid !ecker stood in the hallwa outside suite F9@. .e knew that somewhere behind the ornatel carved door was the ring. A matter of nationa! se urity. !ecker could hear movement inside the room. $aint talking. .e knocked. A deep 6erman accent called out. '?a)+ !ecker remained silent. '?a)+ The door opened a crack, and a rotund 6ermanic face gazed down at him. !ecker smiled politel . .e did not know the man/s name. '&eutscher, 0a)+ he asked. '6erman, right)+ The man nodded, uncertain. !ecker continued in perfect 6erman. '*a I speak to ou a moment)+ The man looked uneas . '(as willst du) (hat do ou want)+ !ecker realized he should have rehearsed this before brazenl knocking on a stranger/s door. .e searched for the right words. '4ou have something I need.+ These were apparentl not the right words. The 6erman/s e es narrowed. 'Ein ring,+ !ecker said. '&u hast einen <ing. 4ou have a ring.+ '6o awa ,+ the 6erman growled. .e started to close the door. (ithout thinking, !ecker slid his foot into the crack and 0ammed the door open. .e immediatel regretted the action. The 6erman/s e es went wide. '(as tust du)+ he demanded. '(hat are ou doing)+ !ecker knew he was in over his head. .e glanced nervousl up and down the hall. .e/d alread been thrown out of the clinic; he had no intention of going two for two. '7imm deinen $u] weg2+ the 6erman bellowed. '<emove our foot2+ !ecker scanned the man/s pudg fingers for a ring. 7othing. 8m so !ose, he thought. 'Ein <ing2+ !ecker repeated as the door slammed shut. *** &avid !ecker stood a long moment in the well%furnished hallwa . A replica of a -alvador &ali hung nearb . '$itting.+ !ecker groaned. Surrea!ism. 8m trapped in an absurd dream. .e/d woken up that morning in his own bed but had somehow ended up in -pain breaking into a stranger/s hotel room on a ;uest for some magical ring. -trathmore/s stern voice pulled him back to realit C %ou must find that ring.

!ecker took a deep breath and blocked out the words. .e wanted to go home. .e looked back to the door marked F9@. .is ticket home was 0ust on the other side"a gold ring. All he had to do was get it. .e e3haled purposefull . Then he strode back to suite F9@ and knocked loudl on the door. It was time to pla hardball. *** The 6erman anked open the door and was about to protest, but !ecker cut him off. .e flashed his *ar land s;uash club I& and barked, 'Polizei2+ Then !ecker pushed his wa into the room and threw on the lights. (heeling, the 6erman s;uinted in shock. '(as machst"+ '-ilence2+ !ecker switched to English. '&o ou have a prostitute in this room)+ !ecker peered around the room. It was as plush as an hotel room he/d ever seen. <oses, champagne, a huge canop bed. <ocUo was nowhere to be seen. The bathroom door was closed. 'Prostituiert)+ The 6erman glanced uneasil at the closed bathroom door. .e was larger than !ecker had imagined. .is hair chest began right under his triple chin and sloped outward to his colossal gut. The drawstring of his white terr %cloth Alfonso [III bathrobe barel reached around his waist. !ecker stared up at the giant with his most intimidating look. '(hat is our name)+ A look of panic rippled across the 6erman/s corpulent face. '(as willst du) (hat do ou want)+ 'I am with the tourist relations branch of the -panish 6uardia here in -eville. &o ou have a prostitute in this room)+ The 6erman glanced nervousl at the bathroom door. .e hesitated. '?a,+ he finall admitted. '&o ou know this is illegal in -pain)+ '7ein,+ the 6erman lied. 'I did not know. I/ll send her home right now.+ 'I/m afraid it/s too late for that,+ !ecker said with authorit . .e strolled casuall into the room. 'I have a proposition for ou.+ 'Ein :orschlag)+ The 6erman gasped. 'A proposition)+ '4es. I can take ou to head;uarters right now5+ !ecker paused dramaticall and cracked his knuckles. '#r what)+ the 6erman asked, his e es widening in fear. '#r we make a deal.+ '(hat kind of deal)+ The 6erman had heard stories about the corruption in the -panish 6uardia 1ivil. '4ou have something I want,+ !ecker said. '4es, of course2+ the 6erman effused, forcing a smile. .e went immediatel to the wallet on his dresser. '.ow much)+ !ecker let his 0aw drop in mock indignation. 'Are ou tr ing to bribe an officer of the law)+ he bellowed. '7o2 #f course not2 I 0ust thought5+ The obese man ;uickl set down his wallet. 'I5 I5+ .e was totall flustered. .e collapsed on the corner of the bed and wrung his hands. The bed groaned under his weight. 'I/m sorr .+ !ecker pulled a rose from the vase in the center of the room and casuall smelled it before letting it fall to the floor. .e spun suddenl . '(hat can ou tell me about the murder)+ The 6erman went white. '*ord) *urder)+ '4es. The Asian man this morning) In the park) It was an assassination"Ermordung.+ !ecker loved the 6erman word for assassination. Ermordung. It was so chilling. 'Ermordung) .e5 he was5)+ '4es.+

'!ut5 but that/s impossible,+ the 6erman choked. 'I was there. .e had a heart attack. I saw it. 7o blood. 7o bullets.+ !ecker shook his head condescendingl . 'Things are not alwa s as the seem.+ The 6erman went whiter still. !ecker gave an inward smile. The lie had served its purpose. The poor 6erman was sweating profusel . '(h%wh%at do ou want)+ he stammered. 'I know nothing.+ !ecker began pacing. 'The murdered man was wearing a gold ring. I need it.+ 'I%I don/t have it.+ !ecker sighed patronizingl and motioned to the bathroom door. 'And <ocUo) &ewdrop)+ The man went from white to purple. '4ou know &ewdrop)+ .e wiped the sweat from his flesh forehead and drenched his terr %cloth sleeve. .e was about to speak when the bathroom door swung open. !oth men looked up. <ocUo Eva 6ranada stood in the doorwa . A vision. ,ong flowing red hair, perfect Iberian skin, deep%brown e es, a high smooth forehead. -he wore a white terr %cloth robe that matched the 6erman/s. The tie was drawn snugl over her wide hips, and the neck fell loosel open to reveal her tanned cleavage. -he stepped into the bedroom, the picture of confidence. '*a I help ou)+ she asked in throat English. !ecker gazed across the room at the stunning woman before him and did not blink. 'I need the ring,+ he said coldl . '(ho are ou)+ she demanded. !ecker switched to -panish with a dead%on Andalusian accent. '6uardia 1ivil.+ -he laughed. 'Impossible,+ she replied in -panish. !ecker felt a knot rise in his throat. <ocUo was clearl a little tougher than her client. 'Impossible)+ he repeated, keeping his cool. '-hall I take ou downtown to prove it)+ <ocUo smirked. 'I will not embarrass ou b accepting our offer. 7ow, who are ou)+ !ecker stuck to his stor . 'I am with the -eville 6uardia.+ <ocUo stepped menacingl toward him. 'I know ever police officer on the force. The are m best clients.+ !ecker felt her stare cutting right through him. .e regrouped. 'I am with a special tourist task force. 6ive me the ring, or I/ll have to take ou down to the precinct and"+ 'And what)+ she demanded, raising her e ebrows in mock anticipation. !ecker fell silent. .e was in over his head. The plan was backfiring. (hy isnt she buying this6 <ocUo came closer. 'I don/t know who ou are or what ou want, but if ou don/t get out of this suite right now, I will call hotel securit , and the rea! 6uardia will arrest ou for impersonating a police officer.+ !ecker knew that -trathmore could have him out of 0ail in five minutes, but it had been made ver clear to him that this matter was supposed to be handled discreetl . 6etting arrested was not part of the plan. <ocUo had stopped a few feet in front of !ecker and was glaring at him. '#ka .+ !ecker sighed, accentuating the defeat in his voice. .e let his -panish accent slip. 'I am not with the -eville police. A D.-. government organization sent me to locate the ring. That/s all I can reveal. I/ve been authorized to pa ou for it.+ There was a long silence. <ocUo let his statement hang in the air a moment before parting her lips in a sl smile. '7ow that wasn/t so hard, was it)+ -he sat down on a chair and crossed her legs. '.ow much can ou pa )+ !ecker muffled his sigh of relief. .e wasted no time getting down to business. 'I can pa ou A>9,999 pesetas. $ive thousand American dollars.+ It was half what he had on him but probabl ten times what the ring was actuall worth.

<ocUo raised her e ebrows. 'That/s a lot of mone .+ '4es it is. &o we have a deal)+ <ocUo shook her head. 'I wish I could sa es.+ 'A million pesetas)+ !ecker blurted. 'It/s all I have.+ '* , m .+ -he smiled. '4ou Americans don/t bargain ver well. 4ou wouldn/t last a da in our markets.+ '1ash, right now,+ !ecker said, reaching for the envelope in his 0acket. 8 ?ust $ant to go home. <ocUo shook her head. 'I can/t.+ !ecker bristled angril . '(h not)+ 'I no longer have the ring,+ she said apologeticall . 'I/ve alread sold it.+

Chapter 33
Tokugen 7umataka stared out his window and paced like a caged animal. .e had not et heard from his contact, 7orth &akota. Damn Ameri ans4 #o sense of pun tua!ity4 .e would have called 7orth &akota himself, but he didn/t have a phone number for him. 7umataka hated doing business this wa "with someone else in control. The thought had crossed 7umataka/s mind from the beginning that the calls from 7orth &akota could be a hoa3"a ?apanese competitor pla ing him for the fool. 7ow the old doubts were coming back. 7umataka decided he needed more information. .e burst from his office and took a left down 7umatech/s main hallwa . .is emplo ees bowed reverentl as he stormed past. 7umataka knew better than to believe the actuall loved him"bowing was a courtes ?apanese emplo ees offered even the most ruthless of bosses. 7umataka went directl to the compan /s main switchboard. All calls were handled b a single operator on a 1orenco =999, twelve%line switchboard terminal. The woman was bus but stood and bowed as 7umataka entered. '-it down,+ he snapped. -he obe ed. 'I received a call at four fort %five on m personal line toda . 1an ou tell me where it came from)+ 7umataka kicked himself for not having done this earlier. The operator swallowed nervousl . '(e don/t have caller identification on this machine, sir. !ut I can contact the phone compan . I/m sure the can help.+ 7umataka had no doubt the phone compan could help. In this digital age, privac had become a thing of the past; there was a record of ever thing. Phone companies could tell ou e3actl who had called ou and how long ou/d spoken. '&o it,+ he commanded. ',et me know what ou find out.+

Chapter 34
-usan sat alone in 7ode F, waiting for her tracer. .ale had decided to step outside and get some air"a decision for which she was grateful. #ddl , however, the solitude in 7ode F provided little as lum. -usan found herself struggling with the new connection between Tankado and .ale. '(ho will guard the guards)+ she said to herself. Buis ustodiet ipsos ustodes. The words kept circling in her head. -usan forced them from her mind. .er thoughts turned to &avid, hoping he was all right. -he still found it hard to believe he was in -pain. The sooner the found the pass%ke s and ended this, the better. -usan had lost track of how long she/d been sitting there waiting for her tracer. Two hours) Three) -he gazed out at the deserted 1r pto floor and wished her terminal would beep. There was onl silence. The late%summer sun had set. #verhead, the automatic fluorescents had kicked on. -usan sensed time was running out.

-he looked down at her tracer and frowned. '1ome on,+ she grumbled. '4ou/ve had plent of time.+ -he palmed her mouse and clicked her wa into her tracer/s status window. '.ow long have ou been running, an wa )+ -usan opened the tracer/s status window"a digital clock much like the one on T<A7-,T<; it displa ed the hours and minutes her tracer had been running. -usan gazed at the monitor e3pecting to see a readout of hours and minutes. !ut she saw something else entirel . (hat she saw stopped the blood in her veins.
T<A1E< A!#<TE&

'Tracer aborted2+ she choked aloud. '(h )+ In a sudden panic, -usan scrolled wildl through the data, searching the programming for an commands that might have told the tracer to abort. !ut her search went in vain. It appeared her tracer had stopped all b itself. -usan knew this could mean onl one thing"her tracer had developed a bug. -usan considered 'bugs+ the most maddening asset of computer programming. !ecause computers followed a scrupulousl precise order of operations, the most minuscule programming errors often had crippling effects. -imple s ntactical errors"such as a programmer mistakenl inserting a comma instead of a period"could bring entire s stems to their knees. -usan had alwa s thought the term 'bug+ had an amusing originC It came from the world/s first computer"the *ark @"a room%size maze of electromechanical circuits built in @KLL in a lab at .arvard Dniversit . The computer developed a glitch one da , and no one was able to locate the cause. After hours of searching, a lab assistant finall spotted the problem. It seemed a moth had landed on one of the computer/s circuit boards and shorted it out. $rom that moment on, computer glitches were referred to as bugs. 'I don/t have time for this,+ -usan cursed. $inding a bug in a program was a process that could take da s. Thousands of lines of programming needed to be searched to find a tin error"it was like inspecting an enc clopedia for a single t po. -usan knew she had onl one choice"to send her tracer again. -he also knew the tracer was almost guaranteed to hit the same bug and abort all over again. &ebugging the tracer would take time, time she and the commander didn/t have. !ut as -usan stared at her tracer, wondering what error she/d made, she realized something didn/t make sense. -he had used this e3act same tracer last month with no problems at all. (h would it develop a glitch all of a sudden) As she puzzled, a comment -trathmore made earlier echoed in her mind. -usan, I tried to send the tracer m self, but the data it returned was nonsensical. -usan heard the words again. The data it returned -he cocked her head. (as it possible) The data it returned) If -trathmore had received data back from the tracer, then it obviousl was working. .is data was nonsensical, -usan assumed, because he had entered the wrong search strings"but nonetheless, the tracer was working. -usan immediatel realized that there was one other possible e3planation for wh her tracer aborted. Internal programming flaws were not the onl reasons programs glitched; sometimes there were externa! forces"power surges, dust particles on circuit boards, fault cabling. !ecause the hardware in 7ode F was so well tuned, she hadn/t even considered it. -usan stood and strode ;uickl across 7ode F to a large bookshelf of technical manuals. -he grabbed a spiral binder marked -4-%#P and thumbed through. -he found what she was looking for, carried the manual back to her terminal, and t ped a few commands. Then she waited while the computer raced through a list of commands e3ecuted in the past three hours. -he hoped the search

would turn up some sort of e3ternal interrupt"an abort command generated b a fault power suppl or defective chip. *oments later -usan/s terminal beeped. .er pulse ;uickened. -he held her breath and studied the screen.
E<<#< 1#&E ==

-usan felt a surge of hope. It was good news. The fact that the in;uir had found an error code meant her tracer was fine. The trace had apparentl aborted due to an e3ternal anomal that was unlikel to repeat itself. Error code ==. -usan racked her memor tr ing to remember what code == stood for. .ardware failures were so rare in 7ode F that she couldn/t remember the numerical codings. -usan flipped through the -4-%#P manual, scanning the list of error codes.
@KC 1#<<DPT .A<& PA<TITI#7

=9C &1 -PIGE

=@C *E&IA $AI,D<E

(hen she reached number ==, she stopped and stared a long moment. !affled, she double%checked her monitor.
E<<#< 1#&E ==

-usan frowned and returned to the -4-%#P manual. (hat she saw made no sense. The e3planation simpl readC
==C *A7DA, A!#<T

Chapter 35
!ecker stared in shock at <ocUo. '4ou so!d the ring)+ The woman nodded, her silk red hair falling around her shoulders. !ecker willed it not to be true. 'Pero5 but5+ -he shrugged and said in -panish, 'A girl near the park.+ !ecker felt his legs go weak. This ant be4 <ocUo smiled co l and motioned to the 6erman. '^l ;uerUa ;ue lo guardara. .e wanted to keep it, but I told him no. I/ve got 6itana blood in me, 6 ps blood; we 6itanas, in addition to having red hair, are ver superstitious. A ring offered b a d ing man is not a good sign.+ '&id ou know the girl)+ !ecker interrogated. <ocUo arched her e ebrows. ':a a. 4ou reall want this ring, don/t ou)+ !ecker nodded sternl . '(ho did ou sell it to)+

The enormous 6erman sat bewildered on the bed. .is romantic evening was being ruined, and he apparentl had no idea wh . '(as passiert)+ he asked nervousl . '(hat/s happening)+ !ecker ignored him. 'I didn/t actuall sell it,+ <ocUo said. 'I tried to, but she was 0ust a kid and had no mone . I ended up giving it to her. .ad I known about our generous offer, I would have saved it for ou.+ '(h did ou leave the park)+ !ecker demanded. '-omebod had died. (h didn/t ou wait for the police) And give them the ring)+ 'I solicit man things, *r. !ecker, but troub!e is not one of them. !esides, that old man seemed to have things under control.+ 'The 1anadian)+ '4es, he called the ambulance. (e decided to leave. I saw no reason to involve m date or m self with the police.+ !ecker nodded absentl . .e was still tr ing to accept this cruel twist of fate. She ga.e the damn thing a$ay4 'I tried to help the d ing man,+ <ocUo e3plained. '!ut he didn/t seem to want it. .e started with the ring"kept pushing it in our faces. .e had these three crippled fingers sticking up. .e kept pushing his hand at us"like we were supposed to take the ring. I didn/t want to, but m friend here finall did. Then the gu died.+ 'And ou tried 1P<)+ !ecker guessed. '7o. (e didn/t touch him. * friend got scared. .e/s big, but he/s a wimp.+ -he smiled seductivel at !ecker. '&on/t worr "he can/t speak a word of -panish.+ !ecker frowned. .e was wondering again about the bruises on Tankado/s chest. '&id the paramedics give 1P<)+ 'I have no idea. As I told ou, we left before the arrived.+ '4ou mean after ou sto!e the ring.+ !ecker scowled. <ocUo glared at him. '(e did not steal the ring. The man was d ing. .is intentions were clear. (e gave him his last wish.+ !ecker softened. <ocUo was right; he probabl would have done the same damn thing. '!ut then ou gave the ring to some girl)+ 'I told ou. The ring made me nervous. The girl had lots of 0ewelr on. I thought she might like it.+ 'And she didn/t think it was strange) That ou/d 0ust gi.e her a ring)+ '7o. I told her I found it in the park. I thought she might offer to pa me for it, but she didn/t. I didn/t care. I 0ust wanted to get rid of it.+ '(hen did ou give it to her)+ <ocUo shrugged. 'This afternoon. About an hour after I got it.+ !ecker checked his watchC @@CLJ p.m. The trail was eight hours old. (hat the he!! am 8 doing here6 8m supposed to be in the Smo&ys. .e sighed and asked the onl ;uestion he could think of. '(hat did the girl look like)+ 'Era un punki,+ <ocUo replied. !ecker looked up, puzzled. 'Dn punki)+ '-U. Punki.+ 'A punk)+ '4es, a punk,+ she said in rough English, and then immediatel switched back to -panish. '*ucha 0o erUa. ,ots of 0ewelr . A weird pendant in one ear. A skull, I think.+ 'There are punk rockers in -eville)+ <ocUo smiled. 'Todo ba0o el sol. Ever thing under the sun.+ It was the motto of -eville/s Tourism !ureau. '&id she give ou her name)+ '7o.+ '&id she sa where she was going)+ '7o. .er -panish was poor.+

'-he wasn/t -panish)+ !ecker asked. '7o. -he was English, I think. -he had wild hair"red, white, and blue.+ !ecker winced at the bizarre image. '*a be she was American,+ he offered. 'I don/t think so,+ <ocUo said. '-he was wearing a T%shirt that looked like the !ritish flag.+ !ecker nodded dumbl . '#ka . <ed, white, and blue hair, a !ritish flag T%shirt, a skull pendant in her ear. (hat else)+ '7othing. ?ust our average punk.+ A.erage pun&6 !ecker was from a world of collegiate sweatshirts and conservative haircuts" he couldn/t even picture what the woman was talking about. '1an ou think of an thing else at all)+ he pressed. <ocUo thought a moment. '7o. That/s it.+ ?ust then the bed creaked loudl . <ocUo/s client shifted his weight uncomfortabl . !ecker turned to him and spoke influent 6erman. '7och et was) An thing else) An thing to help me find the punk rocker with the ring)+ There was a long silence. It was as if the giant man had something he wanted to sa , but he wasn/t sure how to sa it. .is lower lip ;uivered momentaril , there was a pause, and then he spoke. The four words that came out were definitel English, but the were barel intelligible beneath his thick 6erman accent. '$ock off und die.+ !ecker gaped in shock. 'I beg our pardon) '$ock off und die,+ the man repeated, patting his left palm against his flesh right forearm"a crude appro3imation of the Italian gesture for 'fuck ou.+ !ecker was too drained to be offended. Fu & off and die6 (hat happened to Das (imp6 .e turned back to <ocUo and spoke in -panish. '-ounds like I/ve oversta ed m welcome.+ '&on/t worr about him.+ -he laughed. '.e/s 0ust a little frustrated. .e/ll get what/s coming to him.+ -he tossed her hair and winked. 'Is there an thing else)+ !ecker asked. 'An thing ou can tell me that might help)+ <ocUo shook her head. 'That/s all. !ut ou/ll never find her. -eville is a big cit "it can be ver deceptive.+ 'I/ll do the best I can.+ It/s a matter of national securit 5 'If ou have no luck,+ <ocUo said, e eing the bulging envelope in !ecker/s pocket, 'please stop back. * friend will be sleeping, no doubt. Gnock ;uietl . I/ll find us an e3tra room. 4ou/ll see a side of -pain ou/ll never forget.+ -he pouted lusciousl . !ecker forced a polite smile. 'I should be going.+ .e apologized to the 6erman for interrupting his evening. The giant smiled timidl . 'Geine Drsache.+ !ecker headed out the door. 7o problem) (hatever happened to '$uck off and die+)

Chapter 36
'*anual abort)+ -usan stared at her screen, m stified. -he knew she hadn/t t ped an manual abort command"at least not intentionall . -he wondered if ma be she/d hit the wrong se;uence of ke s b mistake. 'Impossible,+ she muttered. According to the headers, the abort command had been sent less than twent minutes ago. -usan knew the onl thing she/d t ped in the last twent minutes washer privac code when she/d stepped out to talk to the commander. It was absurd to think the privac code could have been misinterpreted as an abort command. Gnowing it was a waste of time, -usan pulled up her -creen,ock log and double%checked that her privac code had been entered properl . -ure enough, it had. 'Then $here,7 she demanded angril , 'where did it get a manua! abort)+ -usan scowled and closed the -creen,ock window. Dne3pectedl , however, in the split second as the window blipped awa , something caught her e e. -he reopened the window and studied the data. It made no sense. There was a proper 'locking+ entr when she/d left 7ode F, but

the timing of the subse;uent 'unlock+ entr seemed strange. The two entries were less than one minute apart. -usan was certain she/d been outside with the commander for more than one minute. -usan scrolled down the page. (hat she saw left her aghast. <egistering three minutes later, a se ond set of lock%unlock entries appeared. According to the log, someone had unlocked her terminal while she was gone. '7ot possible2+ she choked. The onl candidate was 6reg .ale, and -usan was ;uite certain she/d never given .ale her privac code. $ollowing good cr ptographic procedure, -usan had chosen her code at random and never written it down; .ale/s guessing the correct five%character alphanumeric was out of the ;uestion"it was thirt %si3 to the fifth power, over si3t million possibilities. !ut the -creen,ock entries were as clear as da . -usan stared at them in wonder. .ale had somehow been on her terminal while she was gone. .e had sent her tracer a manual abort command. The ;uestions of ho$ ;uickl gave wa to ;uestions of $hy6 .ale had no motive to break into her terminal. .e didn/t even know -usan was running a tracer. Even if he did know, -usan thought, wh would he ob0ect to her tracking some gu named 7orth &akota) The unanswered ;uestions seemed to be multipl ing in her head. '$irst things first,+ she said aloud. -he would deal with .ale in a moment. $ocusing on the matter at hand, -usan reloaded her tracer and hit the enter ke . .er terminal beeped once.
T<A1E< -E7T

-usan knew the tracer would take hours to return. -he cursed .ale, wondering how in the world he/d gotten her privac code, wondering what interest he had in her tracer. -usan stood up and strode immediatel for .ale/s terminal. The screen was black, but she could tell it was not locked"the monitor was glowing faintl around the edges. 1r ptographers seldom locked their terminals e3cept when the left 7ode F for the night. Instead, the simpl dimmed the brightness on their monitors"a universal, honor%code indication that no one should disturb the terminal. -usan reached for .ale/s terminal. '-crew the honor code,+ she said. '(hat the hell are ou up to)+ Throwing a ;uick glance out at the deserted 1r pto floor, -usan turned up .ale/s brightness controls. The monitor came into focus, but the screen was entirel empt . -usan frowned at the blank screen. Dncertain how to proceed, she called up a search engine and t pedC
-EA<1. $#<C 'T<A1E<+

It was a long shot, but if there were an references to -usan/s tracer in .ale/s computer, this search would find them. It might shed some light on wh .ale had manuall aborted her program. -econds later the screen refreshed.
7# *AT1.E- $#D7&

-usan sat a moment, unsure what she was even looking for. -he tried again.
-EA<1. $#<C '-1<EE7,#1G+

The monitor refreshed and provided a handful of innocuous references"no hint that .ale had an copies of -usan/s privac code on his computer. -usan sighed loudl . So $hat programs has he been using today6 -he went to .ale/s 'recent applications+ menu to find the last program he had used. It was his E%mail server. -usan searched his hard drive and eventuall found his E%mail folder hidden discreetl inside some other directories. -he opened the folder, and additional folders appeared; it seemed .ale had numerous E%mail identities and accounts. #ne of them, -usan noticed with little surprise, was an anon mous account. -he opened the folder, clicked one of the old, inbound messages, and read it. -he instantl stopped breathing. The message readC
T#C 7&AG#TAQA<A.A7#7.#<6

$<#*C ETQ&#-.I-.A.E&D

6<EAT P<#6<E--2 &I6ITA, $#<T<E-- I- A,*#-T &#7E.

T.I- T.I76 (I,, -ET T.E 7-A !A1G &E1A&E-2

As if in a dream, -usan read the message over and over. Then, trembling, she opened another.
T#C 7&AG#TAQA<A.A7#7.#<6

$<#*C ETQ&#-.I-.A.E&D

<#TATI76 1,EA<TE[T (#<G-2 *DTATI#7 -T<I76- A<E T.E T<I1G2

It was unthinkable, and et there it was. E%mail from Ensei Tankado. .e had been writing to 6reg .ale. The were working together. -usan went numb as the impossible truth stared up at her from the terminal. 6reg .ale is 7&AG#TA) -usan/s e es locked on the screen. .er mind searched desperatel for some other e3planation, but there was none. It was proof"sudden and inescapableC Tankado had used mutation strings to create a rotating clearte3t function, and .ale had conspired with him to bring down the 7-A. 'It/s5+ -usan stammered. 'It/s5 not possible.+ As if to disagree, .ale/s voice echoed from the pastC Tankado wrote me a few times5 -trathmore took a gamble hiring me5 I/m getting out of here someda . -till, -usan could not accept what she was seeing. True, 6reg .ale was obno3ious and arrogant"but he wasn/t a traitor. .e knew what &igital $ortress would do to the 7-A; there was no wa he was involved in a plot to release it2 And et, -usan realized, there was nothing to stop him"nothing e3cept honor and decenc . -he thought of the -kip0ack algorithm. 6reg .ale had ruined the 7-A/s plans once before. (hat would prevent him from tr ing again)

'!ut Tankado5+ -usan puzzled. (h would someone as paranoid as Tankado trust someone as unreliable as .ale) -he knew that none of it mattered now. All that mattered was getting to -trathmore. ! some ironic stroke of fate, Tankado/s partner was right there under their noses. -he wondered if .ale knew et that Ensei Tankado was dead. -he ;uickl began closing .ale/s E%mail files in order to leave the terminal e3actl as she had found it. .ale could suspect nothing"not et. The &igital $ortress pass%ke , she realized in amazement, was probabl hidden somewhere inside that ver computer. !ut as -usan closed the last of the files, a shadow passed outside the 7ode F window. .er gaze shot up, and she saw 6reg .ale approaching. .er adrenaline surged. .e was almost to the doors. '&amn2+ she cursed, e eing the distance back to her seat. -he knew she/d never make it. .ale was almost there. -he wheeled desperatel , searching 7ode F for options. The doors behind her clicked. Then the engaged. -usan felt instinct takeover. &igging her shoes into the carpet, she accelerated in long, reaching strides toward the pantr . As the doors hissed open, -usan slid to a stop in front of the refrigerator and anked open the door. A glass pitcher on top tipped precariousl and then rocked to a stop. '.ungr )+ .ale asked, entering 7ode F and walking toward her. .is voice was calm and flirtatious. '(ant to share some tofu)+ -usan e3haled and turned to face him. '7o thanks,+ she offered. 'I think I/ll 0ust"+ !ut the words got caught in her throat. -he went white. .ale e ed her oddl . '(hat/s wrong)+ -usan bit her lip and locked e es with him. '7othing, 'she managed. !ut it was a lie. Across the room, .ale/s terminal glowed brightl . -he/d forgotten to dim it.

Chapter 37
&ownstairs at the Alfonso [III, !ecker wandered tiredl over to the bar. A dwarf%like bartender la a napkin in front of him. 'BuO bebe Dsted) (hat are ou drinking)+ '7othing, thanks,+ !ecker replied. 'I need to know if there are an clubs in town for punk rockers)+ The bartender e ed him strangel . '1lubs) $or punks)+ '4eah. Is there an place in town where the all hangout)+ '7o lo sO, seWor. I don/t now. !ut certainl not here2+ .e smiled. '.ow about a drink)+ !ecker felt like shaking the gu . 7othing was going ;uite the wa he/d planned. 'RBuiere :d. algo)+ The bartender repeated. 'R$ino) R?erez)+ $aint strains of classical music were being piped in overhead. +randenburg 9on ertos, !ecker thought. #umber four. .e and -usan had seen the Academ of -t. *artin in the $ields pla the !randenburgs at the universit last ear. .e suddenl wished she were with him now. The breeze from an overhead air%conditioning vent reminded !ecker what it was like outside. .e pictured himself walking the sweat , drugged%out streets of Triana looking for some punk in a !ritish flag T%shirt. .e thought of -usan again. 'Numo de arTndano,+ he heard himself sa . '1ranberr 0uice.+ The bartender looked baffled. '-olo)+ 1ranberr 0uice was a popular drink in -pain, but drinking it alone was unheard of. '-U.+ !ecker said. '-olo.+ 'REcho un poco de -mirnoff)+ The bartender pressed. 'A splash of vodka)+ '7o, gracias.+ 'R6ratis)+ he coa3ed. '#n the house)+ Through the pounding in his head, !ecker pictured the filth streets of Triana, the stifling heat, and the long night ahead of him. (hat the he!!. .e nodded. '-U, Ochame un poco de vodka.+

The bartender seemed much relieved and hustled off to make the drink. !ecker glanced around the ornate bar and wondered if he was dreaming. An thing would make more sense than the truth. 8m a uni.ersity tea her, he thought, on a se ret mission. The bartender returned with a flourish and presented !ecker/s beverage. 'A su gusto, seWor. 1ranberr with a splash of vodka.+ !ecker thanked him. .e took a sip and gagged. Thats a sp!ash6

Chapter 38
.ale stopped halfwa to the 7ode F pantr and stared at -usan. '(hat/s wrong, -ue) 4ou look terrible.+ -usan fought her rising fear. Ten feet awa , .ale/s monitor glowed brightl . 'I/m5 I/m oka ,+ she managed, her heart pounding. .ale e ed her with a puzzled look on his face. '4ou want some water)+ -usan could not answer. -he cursed herself. <o$ ou!d 8 forget to dim his damn monitor6 -usan knew the moment .ale suspected her of searching his terminal, he/d suspect she knew his real identit , 7orth &akota. -he feared .ale would do an thing to keep that information inside 7ode F. -usan wondered if she should make a dash for the door. !ut she never got the chance. -uddenl there was a pounding at the glass wall. !oth .ale and -usan 0umped. It was 1hartrukian. .e was banging his sweat fists against the glass again. .e looked like he/d seen Armageddon. .ale scowled at the crazed - s%-ec outside the window, then turned back to -usan. 'I/ll be right back. 6et ourself a drink. 4ou look pale.+ .ale turned and went outside. -usan steadied herself and moved ;uickl to .ale/s terminal. -he reached down and ad0usted the brightness controls. The monitor went black. .er head was pounding. -he turned and e ed the conversation now taking place on the 1r pto floor. Apparentl , 1hartrukian had not gone home, after all. The oung - s%-ec was now in a panic, spilling his guts to 6reg .ale. -usan knew it didn/t matter".ale knew ever thing there was to know. I/ve got to get to -trathmore, she thought. And fast.

Chapter 39
<oom F9@. <ocUo Eva 6ranada stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror. This was the moment she/d been dreading all da . The 6erman was on the bed waiting for her. .e was the biggest man she/d ever been with. <eluctantl , she took an ice cube from the water bucket and rubbed it across her nipples. The ;uickl hardened. This was her gift"to make men feel wanted. It/s what kept them coming back. -he ran her hands across her supple, well%tanned bod and hoped it would survive another four or five more ears until she had enough to retire. -eWor <oldTn took most of her pa , but without him she knew she/d be with the rest of the hookers picking up drunks in Triana. These men at least had mone . The never beat her, and the were eas to satisf . -he slipped into her lingerie, took a deep breath, and opened the bathroom door. As <ocUo stepped into the room, the 6erman/s e es bulged. -he was wearing a black negligee. .er chestnut skin radiated in the soft light, and her nipples stood at attention beneath the lac fabric. 'Gomm doch hierher,+ he said eagerl , shedding his robe and rolling onto his back. <ocUo forced a smile and approached the bed. -he gazed down at the enormous 6erman. -he chuckled in relief. The organ between his legs was tin . .e grabbed at her and impatientl ripped off her negligee. .is fat fingers groped at ever inch of her bod . -he fell on top of him and moaned and writhed in false ecstas . As he rolled her over

and climbed on top of her, she thought she would be crushed. -he gasped and choked against his putt like neck. -he pra ed he would be ;uick. '-U2 -U2+ she gasped in between thrusts. -he dug her fingernails into his backside to encourage him. <andom thoughts cascaded through her mind"faces of the countless men she/d satisfied, ceilings she/d stared at for hours in the dark, dreams of having children5 -uddenl , without warning, the 6erman/s bod arched, stiffened, and almost immediatel collapsed on top of her. Thats a!!6 she thought, surprised and relieved. -he tried to slide out from under him. '&arling,+ she whispered huskil . ',et me get on top.+ !ut the man did not move. -he reached up and pushed at his massive shoulders. '&arling, I5 I can/t breathe2+ -he began feeling faint. -he felt her ribs cracking. '_&espiOrtate2+ .er fingers instinctivel started pulling at his matted hair. (a&e up4 It was then that she felt the warm stick li;uid. It was matted in his hair"flowing onto her cheeks, into her mouth. It was salt . -he twisted wildl beneath him. Above her, a strange shaft of light illuminated the 6erman/s contorted face. The bullet hole in his temple was gushing blood all over her. -he tried to scream, but there was no air left in her lungs. .e was crushing her. &elirious, she clawed toward the shaft of light coming from the doorwa . -he saw a hand. A gun with a silencer. A flash of light. And then nothing.

Chapter 40
#utside 7ode F, 1hartrukian looked desperate. .e was tr ing to convince .ale that T<A7-,T< was in trouble. -usan raced b them with onl one thought in mind"to find -trathmore. The panicked - s%-ec grabbed -usan/s arm as she passed. '*s. $letcher2 (e have a virus2 I/m positive2 4ou have to"+ -usan shook herself free and glared ferociousl . 'I thought the commander told ou to go home.+ '!ut the <un%*onitor2 It/s registering eighteen"+ '1ommander -trathmore told ou to go home2+ '$D1G -T<AT.*#<E2+ 1hartrukian screamed, the words resounding throughout the dome. A deep voice boomed from above. '*r. 1hartrukian)+ The three 1r pto emplo ees froze. .igh above them, -trathmore stood at the railing outside his office. $or a moment, the onl sound inside the dome was the uneven hum of the generators below. -usan tried desperatel to catch -trathmore/s e e. 9ommander4 <a!e is #orth Da&ota4 !ut -trathmore was fi3ated on the oung - s%-ec. .e descended the stairs without so much as a blink, keeping his e es trained on 1hartrukian the whole wa down. .e made his wa across the 1r pto floor and stopped si3 inches in front of the trembling technician. 5(hat did ou sa )+ '-ir,+ 1hartrukian choked, 'T<A7-,T</s in trouble.+ '1ommander)+ -usan inter0ected. 'If I could"+ -trathmore waved her off. .is e es never left the - s%-ec. Phil blurted, '(e have an infected file, sir. I/m sure of it2+ -trathmore/s comple3ion turned a deep red. '*r. 1hartrukian, we/ve been through this. There is no file infecting T<A7-,T<2+ '4es, there is2+ he cried. 'And if it makes its wa to the main databank"+ '(here the hell is this infected file)+ -trathmore bellowed. '-how it to me2+ 1hartrukian hesitated. 'I can/t.+ '#f course ou can/t2 It doesn/t e3ist2+ -usan said, '1ommander, I must"+ Again -trathmore silenced her with an angr wave.

-usan e ed .ale nervousl . .e seemed smug and detached. It makes perfect sense, she thought. .ale wouldn/t be worried about a virus; he knows what/s reall going on inside T<A7-,T<. 1hartrukian was insistent. 'The infected file exists, sir. !ut 6auntlet never picked it up.+ 'If 6auntlet never picked it up,+ -trathmore fumed, 'then how the hell do ou know it e3ists)+ 1hartrukian suddenl sounded more confident. '*utation strings, sir. I ran a full anal sis, and the probe turned up mutation strings2+ -usan now understood wh the - s%-ec was so concerned. Mutation strings , she mused. -he knew mutation strings were programming se;uences that corrupted data in e3tremel comple3 wa s. The were ver common in computer viruses, particularl viruses that altered large blocks of data. #f course, -usan also knew from Tankado/s E%mail that the mutation strings 1hartrukian had seen were harmless"simpl part of &igital $ortress. The - s%-ec went on. '(hen I first saw the strings, sir, I thought 6auntlet/s filters had failed. !ut then I ran some tests and found out5+ .e paused, looking suddenl uneas . 'I found out that somebod manuall bypassed 6auntlet.+ The statement met with a sudden hush. -trathmore/s face turned an even deeper shade of crimson. There was no doubt whom 1hartrukian was accusing; -trathmore/s terminal was the onl one in 1r pto with clearance to b pass 6auntlet/s filters. (hen -trathmore spoke, his voice was like ice. '*r. 1hartrukian, not that it is an concern of ours, but 8 b passed 6auntlet.+ .e went on, his temper hovering near the boiling point. 'As I told ou earlier, I/m running a ver advanced diagnostic. The mutation strings ou see in T<A7-,T< are part of that diagnostic; the are there because 8 put them there. 6auntlet refused to let me load the file, so I b passed its filters.+ -trathmore/s e es narrowed sharpl at 1hartrukian. '7ow, will there be an thing else before ou go)+ In a flash, it all clicked for -usan. (hen -trathmore had downloaded the encr pted &igital $ortress algorithm from the Internet and tried to run it through T<A7-,T<, the mutation strings had tripped 6auntlet/s filters. &esperate to know whether &igital $ortress was breakable, -trathmore decided to b pass the filters. 7ormall , b passing 6auntlet was unthinkable. In this situation, however, there was no danger in sending &igital $ortress directl into T<A7-,T<; the commander knew e3actl what the file was and where it came from. '(ith all due respect, sir,+ 1hartrukian pressed, 'I/ve never heard of a diagnostic that emplo s mutation"+ '1ommander,+ -usan inter0ected, not able to wait another moment. 'I reall need to"+ This time her words were cut short b the sharp ring of -trathmore/s cellular phone. The commander snatched up the receiver. '(hat is it2+ he barked. Then he fell silent and listened to the caller. -usan forgot about .ale for an instant. -he pra ed the caller was &avid. Te!! me hes o&ay, she thought. Te!! me he found the ring4 !ut -trathmore caught her e e and he gave her a frown. It was not &avid. -usan felt her breath grow short. All she wanted to know was that the man she loved was safe. -trathmore, -usan knew, was impatient for other reasons; if &avid took much longer, the commander would have to send backup"7-A field agents. It was a gamble he had hoped to avoid. '1ommander)+ 1hartrukian urged. 'I reall think we should check"+ '.old on,+ -trathmore said, apologizing to his caller. .e covered his mouthpiece and leveled a fier stare at his oung - s%-ec. '*r. 1hartrukian,+ he growled, 'this discussion is over. 4ou are to leave 1r pto. #o$. That/s an order.+ 1hartrukian stood stunned. '!ut, sir, mutation str"+ '7#(2+ -trathmore bellowed. 1hartrukian stared a moment, speechless. Then he stormed off toward the - s%-ec lab.

-trathmore turned and e ed .ale with a puzzled look. -usan understood the commander/s m stification. .ale had been ;uiet"too ;uiet. .ale knew ver well there was no such thing as a diagnostic that used mutation strings, much less one that could keep T<A7-,T< bus eighteen hours. And et .ale hadn/t said a word. .e appeared indifferent to the entire commotion. -trathmore was obviousl wondering $hy. -usan had the answer. '1ommander,+ she said insistentl , 'if I could 0ust speak"+ 'In a minute,+ he inter0ected, still e eing .ale ;uizzicall . 'I need to take this call.+ (ith that, -trathmore turned on his heel and headed for his office. -usan opened her mouth, but the words stalled on the tip of her tongue. <a!e is #orth Da&ota4 -he stood rigid, unable to breathe. -he felt .ale staring at her. -usan turned. .ale stepped aside and swung his arm graciousl toward the 7ode F door. 'After ou, -ue.+

Chapter 41
In a linen closet on the third floor of the Alfonso [III, a maid la unconscious on the floor. The man with wire%rim glasses was replacing a hotel master ke in her pocket. .e had not sensed her scream when he struck her, but he had no wa of knowing for sure"he had been deaf since he was twelve. .e reached to the batter pack on his belt with a certain kind of reverence; a gift from a client, the machine had given him new life. .e could now receive his contracts an where in the world. All communications arrived instantaneousl and untraceabl . .e was eager as he touched the switch. .is glasses flickered to life. #nce again his fingers carved into the empt air and began clicking together. As alwa s, he had recorded the names of his victims"a simple matter of searching a wallet or purse. The contacts on his fingers connected, and the letters appeared in the lens of his glasses like ghosts in the air.
-D!?E1TC <#1I# E:A 6<A7A&A"TE<*I7ATE&

-D!?E1TC .A7- .D!E<"TE<*I7ATE&

Three stories below &avid !ecker paid his tab and wandered across the lobb , his half%finished drink in hand. .e headed toward the hotel/s open terrace for some fresh air. 8n and out, he mused. Things hadn/t panned out ;uite as he e3pected. .e had a decision to make. -hould he 0ust give up and go back to the airport) A matter of nationa! se urity. .e swore under his breath. -o wh the hell had the sent a schoolteacher) !ecker moved out of sight of the bartender and dumped the remaining drink in a potted 0asmine. The vodka had made him light%headed. 9heapest drun& in history, -usan often called him. After refilling the heav cr stal glass from a water fountain, !ecker took a long swallow. .e stretched a few times tr ing to shake off the light haze that had settled over him. Then he set down his glass and walked across the lobb . As he passed the elevator, the doors slid opened. There was a man inside. All !ecker saw were thick wire%rim glasses. The man raised a handkerchief to blow his nose. !ecker smiled politel and moved on5 out into the stifling -evillian night.

Chapter 42
Inside 7ode F, -usan caught herself pacing franticall . -he wished she/d e3posed .ale when she/d had the chance. .ale sat at his terminal. '-tress is a killer, -ue. -omething ou want to get off our chest)+

-usan forced herself to sit. -he had thought -trathmore would be off the phone b now and return to speak to her, but he was nowhere to be seen. -usan tried to keep calm. -he gazed at her computer screen. The tracer was still running"for the second time. It was immaterial now. -usan knew whose address it would returnC 6.A,EQcr pto.nsa.gov. -usan gazed up toward -trathmore/s workstation and knew she couldn/t wait an longer. It was time to interrupt the commander/s phone call. -he stood and headed for the door. .ale seemed suddenl uneas , apparentl noticing -usan/s odd behavior. .e strode ;uickl across the room and beat her to the door. .e folded his arms and blocked her e3it. 'Tell me what/s going on,+ he demanded. 'There/s something going on here toda . (hat is it)+ ',et me out,+ -usan said as evenl as possible, feeling a sudden twinge of danger. '1ome on,+ .ale pressed. '-trathmore practicall fired 1hartrukian for doing his 0ob. (hat/s going on inside T<A7-,T<) (e don/t have an diagnostics that run eighteen hours. That/s bullshit, and ou know it. Tell me what/s going on.+ -usan/s e es narrowed. %ou &no$ damn $e!! $hats going on4 '!ack off, 6reg,+ she demanded. 'I need to use the bathroom.+ .ale smirked. .e waited a long moment and then stepped aside. '-orr -ue. ?ust flirting.+ -usan pushed b him and left 7ode F. As she passed the glass wall, she sensed .ale/s e es boring into her from the other side. <eluctantl , she circled toward the bathrooms. -he would have to make a detour before visiting the 1ommander. 6reg .ale could suspect nothing.

Chapter 43
A 0aunt fort %five, 1had !rinkerhoff was well%pressed, well%groomed, and well%informed. .is summer%weight suit, like his tan skin, showed not a wrinkle or hint of wear. .is hair was thick, sand blond, and most importantl "all his own. .is e es were a brilliant blue"subtl enhanced b the miracle of tinted contact lenses. .e surve ed the wood%paneled office around him and knew he had risen as far as he would rise in the 7-A. .e was on the ninth floor"*ahogan <ow. #ffice KA@KA. The &irectorial -uite. It was a -aturda night, and *ahogan <ow was all but deserted, its e3ecutives long gone"off en0o ing whatever pastimes influential men en0o ed in their leisure. Although !rinkerhoff had alwa s dreamed of a 'real+ post with the agenc , he had somehow ended up as a 'personal aide+" the official cul de sac of the political rat race. The fact that he worked side b side with the single most powerful man in American intelligence was little consolation. !rinkerhoff had graduated with honors from Andover and (illiams, and et here he was, middle%aged, with no real power"no real stake. .e spent his da s arranging someone else/s calendar. *** There were definite benefits to being the director/s personal aide"!rinkerhoff had a plush office in the directorial suite, full access to all the 7-A departments, and a certain level of distinction that came from the compan he kept. .e ran errands for the highest echelons of power. &eep down !rinkerhoff knew he was born to be a PA"smart enough to take notes, handsome enough to give press conferences, and laz enough to be content with it. The stick %sweet chime of his mantel clock accented the end of another da of his pathetic e3istence. Shit, he thought. Fi.e o !o & on a Saturday. (hat the he!! am 8 doing here6 '1had)+ A woman appeared in his doorwa . !rinkerhoff looked up. It was *idge *ilken, $ontaine/s internal securit anal st. -he was si3t , slightl heav , and, much to the puzzlement of !rinkerhoff, ;uite appealing. A consummate flirt and an e3%wife three times over, *idge prowled the si3%room directorial suite with a sauc

authorit . -he was sharp, intuitive, worked ungodl hours, and was rumored to know more about the 7-A/s inner workings than 6od himself. Damn, !rinkerhoff thought, e eing her in her gra cashmere%dress. *ither 8m getting o!der, or shes !oo&ing younger. '(eekl reports.+ -he smiled, waving a fanfold of paper. '4ou need to check the figures.+ !rinkerhoff e ed her bod . '$igures look good from here.+ '<eall 1had,+ she laughed. 'I/m old enough to be our mother.+ &on/t remind me, he thought. *idge strode in and sidled up to his desk. 'I/m on m wa out, but the director wants these compiled b the time he gets back from -outh America. That/s *onda , bright and earl .+ -he dropped the printouts in front of him. '(hat am I, an accountant)+ '7o, hon, ou/re a cruise director. Thought ou knew that.+ '-o what am I doing crunching numbers)+ -he ruffled his hair. '4ou wanted more responsibilit . .ere it is.+ .e looked up at her sadl . '*idge5 I have no life.+ -he tapped her finger on the paper. 5This is our life, 1had !rinkerhoff.+ -he looked down at him and softened. 'An thing I can get ou before I go)+ .e e ed her pleadingl and rolled his aching neck. '* shoulders are tight.+ *idge didn/t bite. 'Take an aspirin.+ .e pouted. '7o back rub)+ -he shook her head. 59osmopo!itan sa s two%thirds of backrubs end in se3.+ !rinkerhoff looked indignant. 5)urs never do2+ 'Precisel .+ -he winked. 'That/s the problem.+ '*idge"+ '7ight, 1had.+ -he headed for the door. '4ou/re leaving)+ '4ou know I/d sta ,+ *idge said, pausing in the doorwa , 'but I do have some pride. I 0ust can/t see pla ing second fiddle"particularl to a teenager.+ '* wife/s not a teenager,+ !rinkerhoff defended. '-he 0ust acts like one.+ *idge gave him a surprised look. 'I wasn/t talking about our wife.+ -he battered her e es innocentl . 'I was talking about 9armen.7 -he spoke the name with a thick Puerto <ican accent. !rinkerhoff/s voice cracked slightl . '(ho)+ '1armen) In food services)+ !rinkerhoff felt himself flush. 1armen .uerta was a twent %seven% ear%old pastr chef who worked in the 7-A commissar . !rinkerhoff had en0o ed a number of presumabl secret after%hours flings with her in the stockroom. -he gave him a wicked wink. '<emember, 1had5 !ig !rother knows all.+ !ig !rother) !rinkerhoff gulped in disbelief. !ig !rother watches the -T#1G<##*- too) !ig !rother, or '!rother+ as *idge often called it, was a 1entre3 FFF that sat in a small closetlike space off the suite/s central room. !rother was *idge/s whole world. It received data from @LJ closed circuit video cameras, FKK electronic doors, FAA phones taps, and =@= free%standing bugs in the 7-A comple3. The directors of the 7-A had learned the hard wa that =8,999 emplo ees were not onl a great asset but a great liabilit . Ever ma0or securit breach in the 7-A/s histor had come from within. It was *idge/s 0ob as internal securit anal st, to watch ever thing that went on within the walls of the 7-A5 including, apparentl , the commissar stockroom. !rinkerhoff stood to defend himself, but *idge was alread on her wa out. '.ands abo.e the desk,+ she called over her shoulder. '7o funn stuff after I go. The walls have e es.+

!rinkerhoff sat and listened to the sound of her heels fading down the corridor. At least he knew *idge would never tell. -he was not without her weaknesses. *idge had indulged in a few indiscretions of her own"mostl wandering back rubs with !rinkerhoff. .is thoughts turned back to 1armen. .e pictured her lissome bod , those dark thighs, that A* radio she pla ed full blast"hot -an ?uan salsa. .e smiled. Maybe 8!! drop by for a sna & $hen 8m done. .e opened the first printout. CRYPTOPRODUCTION/EXPENDITURE .is mood immediatel lightened. *idge had given him a freebie; the 1r pto report was alwa s a piece of cake. Technicall he was supposed to compile the whole thing, but the onl figure the director ever asked for was the *1&"the mean cost per decr ption. The *1& represented the estimated amount it cost T<A7-,T< to break a single code. As long as the figure was below M@,999 per code, $ontaine didn/t flinch. A grand a pop. !rinkerhoff chuckled. )ur tax do!!ars at $or&. As he began plowing through the document and checking the dail *1&s, images of 1armen .uerta smearing herself with hone and confectioner/s sugar began pla ing in his head. Thirt seconds later he was almost done. The 1r pto data was perfect"as alwa s. !ut 0ust before moving on to the ne3t report, something caught his e e. At the bottom of the sheet, the last *1& was off. The figure was so large that it had carried over into the ne3t column and made a mess of the page. !rinkerhoff stared at the figure in shock. CCC,CCC,CCC6 .e gasped. A bi!!ion do!!ars6 The images of 1armen vanished. A bi!!ion- dollar code) !rinkerhoff sat there a minute, paral zed. Then in a burst of panic, he raced out into the hallwa . '*idge2 1omeback2+

Chapter 44
Phil 1hartrukian stood fuming in the - s%-ec lab. -trathmore/s words echoed in his headC 3ea.e no$4 Thats an order4 .e kicked the trash can and swore in the empt lab. '&iagnostic, m ass2 -ince when does the deput director b pass 6auntlet/s filters2)+ The - s%-ecs were well paid to protect the computer s stems at the 7-A, and 1hartrukian had learned that there were onl two 0ob re;uirementsC be utterl brilliant and e3haustivel paranoid. .ell, he cursed, this isn/t paranoia2 The fucking <un%*onitor/s reading eighteen hours2 It was a virus. 1hartrukian could feel it. There was little doubt in his mind what was going onC -trathmore had made a mistake b b passing 6auntlet/s filters, and now he was tr ing to cover it up with some half%baked stor about a diagnostic. 1hartrukian wouldn/t have been ;uite so edg had T<A7-,T< been the onl concern. !ut it wasn/t. &espite its appearance, the great decoding beast was b no means an island. Although the cr ptographers believed 6auntlet was constructed for the sole purpose of protecting their code%breaking masterpiece, the - s%-ecs understood the truth. The 6auntlet filters served a much higher god. The 7-A/s main databank. The histor behind the databank/s construction had alwa s fascinated 1hartrukian. &espite the efforts of the &epartment of &efense to keep the Internet to themselves in the late @KA9s, it was too useful a tool not to attract the public%sector. Eventuall universities pried their wa on. -hortl after that came the commercial servers. The floodgates opened, and the public poured in. ! the earl K9/s, the government/s once%secure 'Internet+ was a congested wasteland of public E%mail and c berporn.

$ollowing a number of unpublicized, et highl damaging computer infiltrations at the #ffice of 7aval Intelligence, it became increasingl clear that government secrets were no longer safe on computers connected to the burgeoning Internet. The President, in con0unction with the &epartment of &efense, passed a classified decree that would fund a new, totall secure government network to replace the tainted Internet and function as a link between D.-. intelligence agencies. To prevent further computer pilfering of government secrets, all sensitive data was relocated to one, highl secure location"the newl constructed 7-A databank"the $ort Gno3 of D.-. intelligence data. ,iterall millions of the countr /s most classified photos, tapes, documents, and videos were digitized and transferred to the immense storage facilit and then the hard copies were destro ed. The databank was protected b a triple%la er power rela and a tiered digital backup s stem. It was also =@L feet underground to shield it from magnetic fields and possible e3plosions. Activities within the control room were designated Top Se ret :mbra the countr /s highest level of securit . The secrets of the countr had never been safer. This impregnable databank now housed blueprints for advanced weaponr , witness protection lists, aliases of field agents, detailed anal ses and proposals for covert operations. The list was endless. There would be no more black%bag 0obs damaging D.-. intelligence. #f course, the officers of the 7-A realized that stored data had value onl if it was accessible. The real coup of the databank was not getting the classified data off the streets, it was making it accessible onl to the correct people. All stored information had a securit rating and, depending on the level of secrec , was accessible to government officials on a compartmentalized basis. A submarine commander could dial in and check the 7-A/s most recent satellite photos of <ussian ports, but he would not have access to the plans for an anti%drug mission in -outh America. 1IA anal sts could access histories of known assassins but could not access launch codes reserved for the President. - s%-ecs, of course, had no clearance for the information in the databank, but the were responsible for its safet . ,ike all large databanks"from insurance companies to universities"the 7-A facilit was constantl under attack b computer hackers tr ing to sneak a peek at the secrets waiting inside. !ut the 7-A securit programmers were the best in the world. 7o one had ever come close to infiltrating the 7-A databank"and the 7-A had no reason to think an bod ever would. *** Inside the - s%-ec lab, 1hartrukian broke into a sweat tr ing to decide whether to leave. Trouble in T<A7-,T< meant trouble in the databank too. -trathmore/s lack of concern was bewildering. Ever one knew that T<A7-,T< and the 7-A main databank were ine3tricabl linked. Each new code, once broken, was fired from 1r pto through L>9 ards of fiber%optic cable to the 7-A databank for safe keeping. The sacred storage facilit had limited points of entr "and T<A7-,T< was one of them. 6auntlet was supposed to be the impregnable threshold guardian. And -trathmore had b passed it. 1hartrukian could hear his own heart pounding. T>A#S3T>s been stu & eighteen hours4 The thought of a computer virus entering T<A7-,T< and then running wild in the basement of the 7-A proved too much. 'I/ve got to report this,+ he blurted aloud. In a situation like this, 1hartrukian knew there was onl one person to callC the 7-A/s senior - s%-ec officer, the short%fused, L99%pound computer guru who had built 6auntlet. .is nickname was ?abba. .e was a demigod at the 7-A"roaming the halls, putting out virtual fires, and cursing the feeblemindedness of the inept and the ignorant. 1hartrukian knew that as soon as ?abba heard -trathmore had b passed 6auntlet/s filters, all hell would break loose. Too bad, he thought, 8.e got a ?ob to do. .e grabbed the phone and dialed ?abba/s twent %four%hour cellular.

Chapter 45
&avid !ecker wandered aimlessl down Avenida del 1id and tried to collect his thoughts. *uted shadows pla ed on the cobblestones beneath his feet. The vodka was still with him. 7othing about his life seemed in focus at the moment. .is mind drifted back to -usan, wondering if she/d gotten his phone message et. Dp ahead, a -eville Transit !us screeched to a halt in front of a bus stop. !ecker looked up. The bus/s doors cranked open, but no one disembarked. The diesel engine roared back to life, but 0ust as the bus was pulling out, three teenagers appeared out of a bar up the street and ran after it, elling and waving. The engines wound down again, and the kids hurried to catch up. Thirt ards behind them, !ecker stared in utter incredulit . .is vision was suddenl focused, but he knew what he was seeing was impossible. It was a one%in%a%million chance. I/m hallucinating. !ut as the bus doors opened, the kids crowded around to board. !ecker saw it again. This time he was certain. 1learl illuminated in the haze of the corner streetlight, he/d seen her. The passengers climbed on, and the bus/s engines revved up again. !ecker suddenl found himself at a full sprint, the bizarre image fi3ed in his mind"black lipstick, wild e e shadow, and that hair5 spiked straight up in three distinctive spires. <ed, white, and blue. As the bus started to move, !ecker dashed up the street into awake of carbon mono3ide. 'Espera2+ he called, running behind the bus. !ecker/s cordovan loafers skimmed the pavement. .is usual s;uash agilit was not with him, though; he felt off balance. .is brain was having trouble keeping track of his feet. .e cursed the bartender and his 0et lag. The bus was one of -eville/s older diesels, and fortunatel for !ecker, first gear was a long, arduous climb. !ecker felt the gap closing. .e knew he had to reach the bus before it downshifted. The twin tailpipes choked out a cloud of thick smoke as the driver prepared to drop the bus into second gear. !ecker strained for more speed. As he surged even with the rear bumper, !ecker moved right, racing up beside the bus. .e could see the rear doors"and as on all -eville buses, it was propped wide openC cheap air%conditioning. !ecker fi3ed his sights on the opening and ignored the burning sensation in his legs. The tires were beside him, shoulder high, humming at a higher and higher pitch ever second. .e surged toward the door, missing the handle and almost losing his balance. .e pushed harder. Dnderneath the bus, the clutch clicked as the driver prepared to change gears. .e/s shifting2 I won/t make it2 !ut as the engine cogs disengaged to align the larger gears, the bus let up ever so slightl . !ecker lunged. The engine reengaged 0ust as his fingertips curled around the door handle. !ecker/s shoulder almost ripped from its socket as the engine dug in, catapulting him up onto the landing. *** &avid !ecker la collapsed 0ust inside the vehicle/s doorwa . The pavement raced b onl inches awa . .e was now sober. .is legs and shoulder ached. (avering, he stood, steadied himself, and climbed into the darkened bus. In the crowd of silhouettes, onl a few seats awa , were the three distinctive spikes of hair. <ed, white, and blue2 I made it2 !ecker/s mind filled with images of the ring, the waiting ,ear0et 89, and at the end of it all, -usan. As !ecker came even with the girl/s seat wondering what to sa to her, the bus passed beneath a streetlight. The punk/s face was momentaril illuminated.

!ecker stared in horror. The makeup on her face was smeared across a thick stubble. -he was not a girl at all, but a oung man. .e wore a silver stud in his upper lip, a black leather 0acket, and no shirt. '(hat the fuck do you want)+ the hoarse voice asked. .is accent was 7ew 4ork. (ith the disorientated nausea of a slow%motion free fall, !ecker gazed at the busload of passengers staring back at him. The were all punks. At least half of them had red, white, and blue hair. '-iOntate2+ the driver elled. !ecker was too dazed to hear. 5SiDntate47 The driver screamed. 5Sit do$n47 !ecker turned vaguel to the angr face in the rearview mirror. !ut he had waited too long. Anno ed, the driver slammed down hard on the brakes. !ecker felt his weight shift. .e reached for a seat back but missed. $or an instant, &avid !ecker was airborne. Then he landed hard on the gritt floor. #n Avenida del 1id, a figure stepped from the shadows. .e ad0usted his wire%rim glasses and peered after the departing bus. &avid !ecker had escaped, but it would not be for long. #f all the buses in -eville, *r. !ecker had 0ust boarded the infamous number =A. !us =A had onl one destination.

Chapter 46
Phil 1hartrukian slammed down his receiver. ?abba/s line was bus ; ?abba spurned call%waiting as an intrusive gimmick that was introduced b ATVT to increase profits b connecting ever call; the simple phrase 'I/m on the other line, I/ll call ou back+ made phone companies millions annuall . ?abba/s refusal of call%waiting was his own brand of silent ob0ection to the 7-A/s re;uirement that he carr an emergenc cellular at all times. 1hartrukian turned and looked out at the deserted 1r pto floor. The hum of the generators below sounded louder ever minute. .e sensed that time was running out. .e knew he was supposed to leave, but from out of the rumble beneath 1r pto, the - s%-ec mantra began pla ing in his headC A t first, exp!ain !ater. In the high%stakes world of computer securit , minutes often meant the difference between saving a s stem or losing it. There was seldom time to 0ustif a defensive procedure before taking it. - s%-ecs were paid for their technical e3pertise5 and their instinct. A t first, exp!ain !ater. 1hartrukian knew what he had to do. .e also knew that when the dust settled, he would be either an 7-A hero or in the unemplo ment line. The great decoding computer had a virus"of that, the - s%-ec was certain. There was one responsible course of action. -hut it down. 1hartrukian knew there were onl two wa s to shut down T<A7-,T<. #ne was the commander/s private terminal, which was locked in his office"out of the ;uestion. The other was the manual kill%switch located on one of the sublevels beneath the 1r pto floor. 1hartrukian swallowed hard. .e hated the sublevels. .e/d onl been there once, during training. It was like something out of an alien world with its long mazes of catwalks, freon ducts, and a dizz @F8%foot drop to the rumbling power supplies below5 It was the last place he felt like going, and -trathmore was the last person he felt like crossing, but dut was dut . They!! than& me tomorro$, he thought, wondering if he was right. Taking a deep breath, 1hartrukian opened the senior - s%-ec/s metal locker. #n a shelf of disassembled computer parts, hidden behind a media concentrator and ,A7 tester, was a -tanford alumni mug. (ithout touching the rim, he reached inside and lifted out a single *edeco ke . 'It/s amazing,+ he grumbled, 'what - stem%-ecurit officers dont know about securit .+

Chapter 47

'A billion%dollar code)+ *idge snickered, accompan ing !rinkerhoff back up the hallwa . 'That/s a good one.+ 'I swear it,+ he said. -he e ed him askance. 'This better not be some plo to get me out of this dress.+ '*idge, I would never"+ he said self%righteousl . 'I know, 1had. &on/t remind me.+ Thirt seconds later, *idge was sitting in !rinkerhoff/s chair and stud ing the 1r pto report. '-ee)+ he said, leaning over her and pointing to the figure in ;uestion. 'This *1&) A billion dollars2+ *idge chuckled. 'It does appear to be a touch on the high side, doesn/t it)+ '4eah.+ .e groaned. '?ust a touch.+ ',ooks like a divide%b %zero.+ 'A who)+ 'A divide%b %zero,+ she said, scanning the rest of the data. 'The *1&/s calculated as a fraction"total e3pense divided b number of decr ptions.+ '#f course.+ !rinkerhoff nodded blankl and tried not to peer down the front of her dress. '(hen the denominator/s zero,+ *idge e3plained, 'the ;uotient goes to infinit . 1omputers hate infinit , so the t pe all nines.+ -he pointed to a different column. '-ee this)+ '4eah.+ !rinkerhoff refocused on the paper. 'It/s toda /s raw production data. Take a look at the number of decr ptions.+ !rinkerhoff dutifull followed her finger down the column.
7D*!E< #$ &E1<4PTI#7- ` 9

*idge tapped on the figure. 'It/s 0ust as I suspected. &ivide%b %zero.+ !rinkerhoff arched his e ebrows. '-o ever thing/s oka )+ -he shrugged. '?ust means we haven/t broken an codes toda . T<A7-,T< must be taking a break.+ 'A break)+ !rinkerhoff looked doubtful. .e/d been with the director long enough to know that 'breaks+ were not part of his preferred modus operandi"particularl with respect to T<A7-,T<. $ontaine had paid M= billion for the code%breaking behemoth, and he wanted his mone /s worth. Ever second T<A7-,T< sat idle was mone down the toilet. 'Ah5 *idge)+ !rinkerhoff said. 'T<A7-,T< doesn/t take an breaks. It runs da and night. 4ou know that.+ -he shrugged. '*a be -trathmore didn/t feel like hanging out last night to prepare the weekend run. .e probabl knew $ontaine was awa and ducked out earl to go fishing.+ '1ome on, *idge.+ !rinkerhoff gave her disgusted look. '6ive the gu a break.+ It was no secret *idge *ilken didn/t like Trevor -trathmore. -trathmore had attempted a cunning maneuver rewriting -kip0ack, but he/d been caught. &espite -trathmore/s bold intentions, the 7-A had paid dearl . The E$$ had gained strength, $ontaine had lost credibilit with 1ongress, and worst of all, the agenc had lost a lot of its anon mit . There were suddenl housewives in *innesota complaining to America #nline and Prodig that the 7-A might be reading their E%mail"like the 7-A gave a damn about a secret recipe for candied ams. -trathmore/s blunder had cost the 7-A, and *idge felt responsible"not that she could have anticipated the commander/s stunt, but the bottom line was that an unauthorized action had taken place behind &irector $ontaine/s back, a back *idge was paid to cover. $ontaine/s hands%off attitude made him susceptible; and it made *idge nervous. !ut the director had learned long ago to stand back and let smart people do their 0obs; that/s e3actl how he handled Trevor -trathmore. '*idge, ou know damn well -trathmore/s not slacking,+ !rinkerhoff argued. '.e runs T<A7-,T< like a fiend.+

*idge nodded. &eep down, she knew that accusing -trathmore of shirking was absurd. The commander was as dedicated as the came"dedicated to a fault. .e bore the evils of the world as his own personal cross. The 7-A/s -kip0ack plan had been -trathmore/s brainchild"a bold attempt to change the world. Dnfortunatel , like so man divine ;uests, this crusade ended in crucifi3ion. '#ka ,+ she admitted, 'so I/m being a little harsh.+ 'A little)+ !rinkerhoff e es narrowed. '-trathmore/s got a backlog of files a mile long. .e/s not about to let T<A7-,T< sit idle for a whole weekend.+ '#ka , oka .+ *idge sighed. '* mistake.+ -he furrowed her brow and puzzled wh T<A7-,T< hadn/t broken an codes all da . ',et me double%check something,+ she said, and began flipping through the report. -he located what she was looking for and scanned the figures. After a moment she nodded. '4ou/re right, 1had. T<A7-,T</s been running full force. <aw consumables are even a little on the high side; we/re at over half a million kilowatt%hours since midnight last night.+ '-o where does that leave us)+ *idge was puzzled. 'I/m not sure. It/s odd.+ '4ou want to rerun the data)+ -he gave him a disapproving stare. There were two things one never ;uestioned about *idge *ilken. #ne of them was her data. !rinkerhoff waited while *idge studied the figures. '.uh.+ -he finall grunted. '4esterda /s stats look fineC =FA codes broken. *1&, MJAL. Average time per code, a little over si3 minutes. <aw consumables, average. ,ast code entering T<A7-,T<"+ -he stopped. '(hat is it)+ 'That/s funn ,+ she said. ',ast file on esterda /s ;ueue log ran at @@CFA p.m.+ '-o)+ '-o, T<A7-,T< breaks codes ever si3 minutes or so. The last file of the da usuall runs closer to midnight. It sure doesn/t look like"+ *idge suddenl stopped short and gasped. !rinkerhoff 0umped. '(hat2+ *idge was staring at the readout in disbelief. 'This file) The one that entered T<A7-,T< last night)+ '4eah)+ 'It hasn/t broken et. It/s ;ueue time was =FCFAC9J"but it lists no decr pt time.+ *idge fumbled with the sheets. '4esterda or toda 2+ !rinkerhoff shrugged. '*a be those gu s are running a tough diagnostic.+ *idge shook her head. 5*ighteen hours tough67 -he paused. '7ot likel . !esides, the ;ueue data sa s it/s an outside file. (e should call -trathmore.+ 'At home)+ !rinkerhoff swallowed. '#n a -aturda night)+ '7o,+ *idge said. 'If I know -trathmore, he/s on top of this. I/ll bet good mone he/s here. ?ust a hunch.+ *idge/s hunches were the other thing one never ;uestioned. '1ome on,+ she said, standing up. ',et/s see if I/m right.+ *** !rinkerhoff followed *idge to her office, where she sat down and began to work !ig !rother/s ke pads like a virtuoso pipe organist. !rinkerhoff gazed up at the arra of closed%caption video monitors on her wall, their screens all freeze frames of the 7-A seal. '4ou/re gonna snoop 1r pto)+ he asked nervousl . '7ope,+ *idge replied. '(ish I could, but 1r pto/s a sealed deal. It/s got no video. 7o sound. 7o nothing. -trathmore/s orders. All I/ve got is approach stats and basic T<A7-,T< stuff. (e/re luck we/ve even got that. -trathmore wanted total isolation, but $ontaine insisted on the basics.+ !rinkerhoff looked puzzled. '1r pto hasn/t got video)+

'(h )+ she asked, without turning from her monitor. '4ou and 1armen looking for a little more privac )+ !rinkerhoff grumbled something inaudible. *idge t ped some more ke s. 'I/m pulling -trathmore/s elevator log.+ -he studied her monitor a moment and then rapped her knuckle on the desk. '.e/s here,+ she said matter%of%factl . '.e/s in 1r pto right now. ,ook at this. Talk about long hours"he went in esterda morning bright and earl , and his elevator hasn/t budged since. I/m showing no magno%card use for him on the main door. -o he/s definitel in there.+ !rinkerhoff breathed a slight sigh of relief. '-o, if -trathmore/s in there, ever thing/s oka , right)+ *idge thought a moment. '*a be,+ she finall decided. '*a be)+ '(e should call him and double%check.+ !rinkerhoff groaned. '*idge, he/s the deput director. I/m sure he has ever thing under control. ,et/s not second%guess"+ '#h, come on, 1had"don/t be such a child. (e/re 0ust doing our 0ob. (e/ve got a snag in the stats, and we/re following up. !esides,+ she added, 'I/d like to remind -trathmore that !ig !rother/s watching. *ake him think twice before planning an more of his hare%brained stunts to save the world.+ *idge picked up the phone and began dialing. !rinkerhoff looked uneas . '4ou reall think ou should bother him)+ 'I/m not bothering him,+ *idge said, tossing him the receiver. 5%ou are.+

Chapter 48
'(hat)+ *idge sputtered in disbelief. '-trathmore claims our data is wrong)+ !rinkerhoff nodded and hung up the phone. '-trathmore denied that T<A7-,T</s been stuck on one file for eighteen hours)+ '.e was ;uite pleasant about the whole thing.+ !rinkerhoff beamed, pleased with himself for surviving the phone call. '.e assured me T<A7-,T< was working fine. -aid it was breaking codes ever si3 minutes even as we speak. Thanked me for checking up on him.+ '.e/s l ing,+ *idge snapped. 'I/ve been running these 1r pto stats for two ears. The data is never wrong.+ '$irst time for ever thing,+ he said casuall . -he shot him a disapproving look. 'I run all data t$i e.7 '(ell5 ou know what the sa about computers. (hen the screw up, at least the /re consistent about it.+ *idge spun and faced him. 'This isn/t funn , 1had2 The &&# 0ust told a blatant lie to the director/s office. I want to know wh 2+ !rinkerhoff suddenl wished he hadn/t called her back in. -trathmore/s phone call had set her off. Ever since -kip0ack, whenever *idge had a sense that something suspicious was going on, she made an eerie transition from flirt to fiend. There was no stopping her until she sorted it out. '*idge, it is possible our data is off,+ !rinkerhoff said firml . 'I mean, think about it"a file that ties up T<A7-,T< for eighteen hours) It/s unheard of. 6o home. It/s late.+ -he gave him a haught look and tossed the report on the counter. 'I trust the data. Instinct sa s it/s right.+ !rinkerhoff frowned. 7ot even the director ;uestioned *idge *ilken/s instincts an more"she had an uncann habit of alwa s being right. '-omething/s up,+ she declared. 'And I intend to find out what it is.+

Chapter 49
!ecker dragged himself off the floor of the bus and collapsed in an empt seat.

'7ice move, dipshit.+ The kid with the three spikes sneered. !ecker s;uinted in the stark lighting. It was the kid he/d chased onto the bus. .e gluml surve ed the sea of red, white, and blue coiffures. '(hat/s with the hair)+ !ecker moaned, motioning to the others. 'It/s all5+ '<ed, white, and blue)+ the kid offered. !ecker nodded, tr ing not to stare at the infected perforation in the kid/s upper lip. '?udas Taboo,+ the kid said matter%of%factl . !ecker looked bewildered. The punk spit in the aisle, obviousl disgusted with !ecker/s ignorance. '?udas Taboo) 6reatest punk since -id :icious) !lew his head off here a ear ago toda . It/s his anniversar .+ !ecker nodded vaguel , obviousl missing the connection. 'Taboo did his hair this wa the da he signed off.+ The kid spit again. 'Ever fan worth his weight in piss has got red, white, and blue hair toda .+ $or a long moment, !ecker said nothing. -lowl , as if he had been shot with a tran;uilizer, he turned and faced front. !ecker surve ed the group on the bus. Ever last one was a punk. *ost were staring at him. Ever fan has red, white, and blue hair toda . !ecker reached up and pulled the driver%alert cord on the wall. It was time to get off. .e pulled again. 7othing happened. .e pulled a third time, more franticall . 7othing. 'The disconnect Eem on bus =A.+ The kid spat again. '-o we don/t fuck with Eem.+ !ecker turned. '4ou mean, I can/t get off)+ The kid laughed. '7ot till the end of the line.+ $ive minutes later, the bus was barreling along an unlit -panish countr road. !ecker turned to the kid behind him. 'Is this thing ever going to stop)+ The kid nodded. '$ew more miles.+ '(here are we going)+ .e broke into a sudden wide grin. '4ou mean ou don/t know)+ !ecker shrugged. The kid started laughing h stericall . '#h, shit. 4ou/re gonna love it.+

Chapter 50
#nl ards from T<A7-,T</s hull, Phil 1hartrukian stood over a patch of white lettering on the 1r pto floor.
1<4PT# -D!,E:E,-

ADT.#<INE& PE<-#77E, #7,4

.e knew he was definitel not authorized personnel. .e shot a ;uick glance up at -trathmore/s office. The curtains were still pulled. 1hartrukian had seen -usan $letcher go into the bathrooms, so he knew she wasn/t a problem. The onl other ;uestion was .ale. .e glanced toward 7ode F, wondering if the cr ptographer were watching. '$uck it,+ he grumbled. !elow his feet the outline of a recessed trapdoor was barel visible in the floor. 1hartrukian palmed the ke he/d 0ust taken from the - s%-ec lab. .e knelt down, inserted the ke in the floor, and turned. The bolt beneath clicked. Then he unscrewed the large e3ternal butterfl latch and freed the door. 1hecking once again over his

shoulder, he s;uatted down and pulled. The panel was small, onl three feet b three feet, but it was heav . (hen it finall opened, the - s%-ec stumbled back. A blast of hot air hit him in the face. It carried with it the sharp bite of freon gas. !illows of steam swirled out of the opening, illuminated b the red utilit lighting below. The distant hum of the generators became a rumble. 1hartrukian stood up and peered into the opening. It looked more like the gatewa to hell than a service entrance for a computer. A narrow ladder led to a platform under the floor. !e ond that, there were stairs, but all he could see was swirling red mist. *** 6reg .ale stood behind the one%wa glass of 7ode F. .e watched as Phil 1hartrukian eased himself down the ladder toward the sublevels. $rom where .ale was standing, the - s%-ec/s head appeared to have been severed from his bod and left out on the 1r pto floor. Then, slowl , it sank into the swirling mist. '6uts move,+ .ale muttered. .e knew where 1hartrukian was headed. An emergenc manual abort of T<A7-,T< was a logical action if he thought the computer had a virus. Dnfortunatel , it was also a sure wa to have 1r pto crawling with - s%-ecs in about ten minutes. Emergenc actions raised alert flags at the main switchboard. A - s%-ec investigation of 1r pto was something .ale could not afford. .ale left 7ode F and headed for the trapdoor. 1hartrukian had to be stopped.

Chapter 51
?abba resembled a giant tadpole. ,ike the cinematic creature for whom he was nicknamed, the man was a hairless spheroid. As resident guardian angel of all 7-A computer s stems, ?abba marched from department to department, tweaking, soldering, and reaffirming his credo that prevention was the best medicine. 7o 7-A computer had ever been infected under ?abba/s reign; he intended to keep it that wa . ?abba/s home base was a raised workstation overlooking the 7-A/s underground, ultra%secret databank. It was there that a virus would do the most damage and there that he spent the ma0orit of his time. At the moment, however, ?abba was taking a break and en0o ing pepperoni calzones in the 7-A/s all%night commissar . .e was about to dig into his third when his cellular phone rang. '6o,+ he said, coughing as he swallowed a mouthful. '?abba,+ a woman/s voice cooed. 'It/s *idge.+ '&ata Bueen2+ the huge man gushed. .e/d alwa s had a soft spot for *idge *ilken. -he was sharp, and she was also the onl woman ?abba had ever met who flirted with him. '.ow the hell are ou)+ '7o complaints.+ ?abba wiped his mouth. '4ou on site)+ '4up.+ '1are to 0oin me for a calzone)+ ',ove to ?abba, but I/m watching these hips.+ '<eall )+ .e snickered. '*ind if I 0oin ou)+ '4ou/re bad.+ '4ou have no idea5.+ '6lad I caught ou in,+ she said. 'I need some advice.+ .e took a long swallow of &r Pepper. '-hoot.+ 'It might be nothing,+ *idge said, 'but m 1r pto stats turned up something odd. I was hoping ou could shed some light.+ '(hat a got)+ .e took another sip.

'I/ve got a report sa ing T<A7-,T</s been running the same file for eighteen hours and hasn/t cracked it.+ ?abba spra ed &r Pepper all over his calzone. '4ou $hat67 'An ideas)+ .e dabbed at his calzone with a napkin. '(hat report is this)+ 'Production report. !asic cost anal sis stuff.+ *idge ;uickl e3plained what she and !rinkerhoff had found. '.ave ou called -trathmore)+ '4es. .e said ever thing/s fine in 1r pto. -aid T<A7-,T</s running full speed ahead. -aid our data/s wrong.+ ?abba furrowed his bulbous forehead. '-o what/s the problem) 4our report glitched.+ *idge did not respond. ?abba caught her drift. .e frowned. '4ou don/t think our report glitched)+ '1orrect.+ '-o ou think -trathmore/s l ing)+ 'It/s not that,+ *idge said diplomaticall , knowing she was on fragile ground. 'It/s 0ust that m stats have never been wrong in the past. I thought I/d get a second opinion.+ '(ell,+ ?abba said, 'I hate to be the one to break it to ou, but our data/s fried.+ '4ou think so)+ 'I/d bet m 0ob on it.+ ?abba took a big bite of sogg calzone and spoke with his mouth full. ',ongest a file has ever lasted inside T<A7-,T< is three hours. That includes diagnostics, boundar probes, ever thing. #nl thing that could lock it down for eighteen hours would have to be viral. 7othing else could do it.+ ':iral)+ '4eah, some kind of redundant c cle. -omething that got into the processors, created a loop, and basicall gummed up the works.+ '(ell,+ she ventured, '-trathmore/s been in 1r pto for about thirt %si3 hours straight. An chance he/s fighting a virus)+ ?abba laughed. '-trathmore/s been in there for thirt %si3 hours) Poor bastard. .is wife probabl said he can/t come home. I hear she/s bagging his ass.+ *idge thought a moment. -he/d heard that too. -he wondered if ma be she was being paranoid. '*idge.+ ?abba wheezed and took another long drink. 'If -trathmore/s to had a virus, he would have called me. -trathmore/s sharp, but he doesn/t know shit about viruses. T<A7-,T</s all he/s got. $irst sign of trouble, he would have pressed the panic button"and around here, that means me.7 ?abba sucked in a long strand of mozzarella. '!esides, there/s no wa in hell T<A7-,T< has a virus. 6auntlet/s the best set of package filters I/ve ever written. 7othing gets through.+ After a long silence, *idge sighed. 'An other thoughts)+ '4up. 4our data/s fried.+ '4ou alread said that.+ 'E3actl .+ -he frowned. '4ou haven/t caught wind of an thing) An thing at all)+ ?abba laughed harshl . '*idge5 listen up. -kip0ack sucked. -trathmore blew it. !ut move on"it/s over.+ There was a long silence on the line, and ?abba realized he/d gone too far. '-orr , *idge. I know ou took heat over that whole mess. -trathmore was wrong. I know how ou feel about him.+ 'This has nothing to do with -kip0ack,+ she said firml . %eah, sure, ?abba thought. ',isten, *idge, I don/t have feelings for -trathmore one wa or another. I mean, the gu /s a cr ptographer. The /re basicall all self%centered assholes. The need their data esterda . Ever damn file is the one that could save the world.+ '-o what are ou sa ing)+

?abba sighed. 'I/m sa ing -trathmore/s a ps cho like the rest of them. !ut I/m also sa ing he loves T<A7-,T< more than his own goddamn wife. If there were a problem, he would have called me.+ *idge was ;uiet a long time. $inall she let out a reluctant sigh. '-o ou/re sa ing m data/s fried)+ ?abba chuckled. 'Is there an echo in here)+ -he laughed. ',ook, *idge. &rop me a work order. I/ll be up on *onda to double%check our machine. In the meantime, get the hell out of here. It/s -aturda night. 6o get ourself laid or something.+ -he sighed. 'I/m tr ing, ?abba. !elieve me, I/m tr ing.+

Chapter 52
1lub Embru0o"+(arlock+ in English"was situated in the suburbs at the end of the number =A bus line. ,ooking more like a fortification than a dance club, it was surrounded on all sides b high stucco walls into which were embedded shards of shattered beer bottles"a crude securit s stem preventing an one from entering illegall without leaving behind a good portion of flesh. &uring the ride, !ecker had resolved himself to the fact that he/d failed. It was time to call -trathmore with the bad news"the search was hopeless. .e had done the best he could; now it was time to go home. !ut now, gazing out at the mob of patrons pushing their wa through the club/s entrance, !ecker was not so sure his conscience would allow him to give up the search. .e was staring at the biggest crowd of punks he/d ever seen; there were coiffures of red, white, and blue ever where. !ecker sighed, weighing his options. .e scanned the crowd and shrugged. (here e!se $ou!d she be on a Saturday night6 1ursing his good fortune, !ecker climbed off the bus. The access to 1lub Embru0o was a narrow stone corridor. As !ecker entered he immediatel felt himself caught up in the inward surge of eager patrons. '#utta m wa , faggot2+ A human pincushion pawed past him, giving !ecker an elbow in the side. '7ice tie.+ -omeone gave !ecker/s necktie a hard ank. '(anna fuck)+ A teenage girl stared up at him looking like something out of Da$n of the Dead. The darkness of the corridor spilled out into a huge cement chamber that reeked of alcohol and bod odor. The scene was surreal"a deep mountain grotto in which hundreds of bodies moved as one. The surged up and down, hands pressed firml to their sides, heads bobbing like lifeless bulbs on top of rigid spines. 1razed souls took running dives off a stage and landed on a sea of human limbs. !odies were passed back and forth like human beach balls. #verhead, the pulsating strobes gave the whole thing the look of an old, silent movie. #n the far wall, speakers the size of minivans shook so deepl that not even the most dedicated dancers could get closer than thirt feet from the pounding woofers. !ecker plugged his ears and searched the crowd. Ever where he looked was another red, white, and blue head. The bodies were packed so closel together that he couldn/t see what the were wearing. .e saw no hint of a !ritish flag an where. It was obvious he/d never be able to enter the crowd without getting trampled. -omeone nearb started vomiting. 3o.e!y. !ecker groaned. .e moved off down a spra %painted hallwa . The hall turned into a narrow mirrored tunnel, which opened to an outdoor patio scattered with tables and chairs. The patio was crowded with punk rockers, but to !ecker it was like the gatewa to -hangri%,a"the summer sk opened up above him and the music faded awa . Ignoring the curious stares, !ecker walked out into the crowd. .e loosened his tie and collapsed into a chair at the nearest unoccupied table. It seemed like a lifetime since -trathmore/s earl %morning call.

After clearing the empt beer bottles from his table, !ecker laid his head in his hands. "ust for a fe$ minutes, he thought. *** $ive miles awa , the man in wire%rim glasses sat in the back of a $iat ta3i as it raced headlong down a countr road. 'Embru0o,+ he grunted, reminding the driver of their destination. The driver nodded, e eing his curious new fare in the rearview mirror. 'Embru0o,+ he grumbled to himself. '(eirder crowd ever night.+

Chapter 53
Tokugen 7umataka la naked on the massage table in his penthouse office. .is personal masseuse worked out the kinks in his neck. -he ground her palms into the flesh pockets surrounding his shoulder blades, slowl working her wa down to the towel covering his backside. .er hands slipped lower5 beneath his towel. 7umataka barel noticed. .is mind was elsewhere. .e had been waiting for his private line to ring. It had not. There was a knock at the door. 'Enter,+ 7umataka grunted. The masseuse ;uickl pulled her hands from beneath the towel. The switchboard operator entered and bowed. '.onored chairman)+ '-peak.+ The operator bowed a second time. 'I spoke to the phone e3change. The call originated from countr code @"the Dnited -tates.+ 7umataka nodded. This was good news. The a!! ame from the States. .e smiled. 8t $as genuine. '(here in the D.-.)+ he demanded. 'The /re working on it, sir.+ ':er well. Tell me when ou have more.+ The operator bowed again and left. 7umataka felt his muscles rela3. 1ountr code @. 6ood news indeed.

Chapter 54
-usan $letcher paced impatientl in the 1r pto bathroom and counted slowl to fift . .er head was throbbing. "ust a !itt!e !onger, she told herself. <a!e is #orth Da&ota4 -usan wondered what .ale/s plans were. (ould he announce the pass%ke ) (ould he be greed and tr to sell the algorithm) -usan couldn/t bear to wait an longer. It was time. -he had to get to -trathmore. 1autiousl she cracked the door and peered out at the reflective wall on the far side of 1r pto. There was no wa to know if .ale was still watching. -he/d have to move ;uickl to -trathmore/s office. 7ot too ;uickl , of course"she could not let .ale suspect she was on to him. -he reached for the door and was about to pull it open when she heard something. :oices. *en/s voices. The voices were coming through the ventilation shaft near the floor. -he released the door and moved toward the vent. The words were muffled b the dull hum of the generators below. The conversation sounded like it was coming up from the sublevel catwalks. #ne voice was shrill, angr . It sounded like Phil 1hartrukian. '4ou don/t believe me)+ The sound of more arguing rose. '(e have a virus2+

Then the sound of harsh elling. '(e need to call ?abba2+ Then there were sounds of a struggle. ',et me go2+ The noise that followed was barel human. It was a long wailing cr of horror, like a tortured animal about to die. -usan froze beside the vent. The noise ended as abruptl as it had begun. Then there was a silence. An instant later, as if choreographed for some cheap horror matinee, the lights in the bathroom slowl dimmed. Then the flickered and went out. -usan $letcher found herself standing in total blackness.

Chapter 55
'4ou/re in m seat, asshole.+ !ecker lifted his head off his arms. &oesn/t an one speak -panish in this damn countr ) 6laring down at him was a short, pimple%faced teenager with a shaved head. .alf of his scalp was red and half was purple. .e looked like an Easter egg. 'I said ou/re in m seat, asshole.+ 'I heard ou the first time,+ !ecker said, standing up. .e was in no mood for a fight. It was time to go. '(here/d ou put m bottles)+ the kid snarled. There was a safet pin in his nose. !ecker pointed to the beer bottles he/d set on the ground. 'The were empt .+ 'The were my fuckin/ empties2+ '* apologies,+ !ecker said, and turned to go. The punk blocked his wa . 'Pick Eem up2+ !ecker blinked, not amused. '4ou/re kidding, right)+ .e was a full foot taller and outweighed the kid b about fift pounds. '&o I fuckin/ !oo& like I/m kidding)+ !ecker said nothing. 'Pick Eem up2+ The kid/s voice cracked. !ecker attempted to step around him, but the teenager blocked his wa . 'I said, fuckin/ pick Eem up2+ -toned punks at nearb tables began turning to watch the e3citement. '4ou don/t want to do this, kid,+ !ecker said ;uietl . 'I/m warning ou2+ The kid seethed. 'This is m table2 I come here ever night. 7ow pi & Eem up47 !ecker/s patience ran out. (asn/t he supposed to be in the -mok s with -usan) (hat was he doing in -pain arguing with a ps chotic adolescent) (ithout warning, !ecker caught the kid under the armpits, lifted him up, and slammed his rear end down on the table. ',ook, ou runn %nosed little runt. 4ou/re going to back off right now, or I/m going to rip that safet pin out of our nose and pin our mouth shut.+ The kid/s face went pale. !ecker held him a moment, then he released his grip. (ithout taking his e es off the frightened kid, !ecker stooped down, picked up the bottles, and returned them to the table. '(hat do ou sa )+ he asked. The kid was speechless. '4ou/re welcome,+ !ecker snapped. This kid/s a walking billboard for birth control. '6o to hell2+ the kid elled, now aware of his peers laughing at him. 'Ass%wipe2+ !ecker didn/t move. -omething the kid had said suddenl registered. 8 ome here e.ery night. !ecker wondered if ma be the kid could help him. 'I/m sorr ,+ !ecker said, 'I didn/t catch our name.+ 'Two%Tone,+ he hissed, as if he were giving a death sentence. 'Two%Tone)+ !ecker mused. ',et me guess5 because of our hair)+

'7o shit, -herlock.+ '1atch name. *ake that up ourself)+ '&amn straight,+ he said proudl . 'I/m gonna patent it.+ !ecker scowled. '4ou mean trademar& it67 The kid looked confused. '4ou/d need a trademark for a name,+ !ecker said. '7ot a patent.+ '(hatever2+ the punk screamed in frustration. The motle assortment of drunken and drugged%out kids at the nearb tables were now in h sterics. Two%Tone stood up and sneered at !ecker. '(hat the fuck do ou want from me)+ !ecker thought a moment. 8 $ant you to $ash your hair, !eanup your !anguage, and get a ?ob. !ecker figured it was too much to ask on a first meeting. 'I need some information,+ he said. '$uck ou.+ 'I/m looking for someone.+ 'I ain/t seen him.+ 5<a.ent seen him,+ !ecker corrected as he flagged a passing waitress. .e bought two aguila beers and handed one to Two%Tone. The bo looked shocked. .e took a swig of beer and e ed !ecker waril . '4ou hitting on me, mister)+ !ecker smiled. 'I/m looking for a girl.+ Two%Tone let out a shrill laugh. '4ou sure as hell ain/t gonna get an action dressed like that2+ !ecker frowned. 'I/m not looking for action. I 0ust need to talk to her. *a be ou could help me find her.+ Two%Tone set down his beer. '4ou a cop)+ !ecker shook his head. The kid/s e es narrowed. '4ou look like a cop.+ 'Gid, I/m from *ar land. If I were a cop, I/d be a little out of m 0urisdiction, don/t ou think)+ The ;uestion seemed to stump him. '* name/s &avid !ecker.+ !ecker smiled and offered his hand across the table. The punk recoiled in disgust. '!ack off, fag bo .+ !ecker retracted the hand. The kid sneered. 'I/ll help ou, but it/ll cost ou.+ !ecker pla ed along. '.ow much)+ 'A hundred bucks.+ !ecker frowned. 'I/ve onl got pesetas.+ '(hatever2 *ake it a hundred pesetas.7 $oreign currenc e3change was obviousl not one of Two%Tone/s fortes; a hundred pesetas was about eight %seven cents. '&eal,+ !ecker said, rapping his bottle on the table. The kid smiled for the first time. '&eal.+ '#ka ,+ !ecker continued in his hushed tone. 'I figure the girl I/m looking for might hang out here. -he/s got red, white, and blue hair.+ Two%Tone snorted. 'It/s ?udas Taboo/s anniversar . Ever bod /s got"+ '-he/s also wearing a !ritish flag T%shirt and has a skull pendant in one ear.+ A faint look of recognition crossed Two%Tone/s face. !ecker saw it and felt a surge of hope. !ut a moment later Two%Tone/s e3pression turned stern. .e slammed his bottle down and grabbed !ecker/s shirt. '-he/s Eduardo/s, ou asshole2 I/d watch it2 4ou touch her, and he/ll kill ou2+

Chapter 56
*idge *ilken prowled angril into the conference room across from her office. In addition to the thirt %two foot mahogan table with the 7-A seal inlaid in black cherr and walnut, the

conference room contained three *arion Pike watercolors, a !oston fern, a marble wet bar, and of course, the re;uisite -parklett/s water cooler. *idge helped herself to a glass of water, hoping it might calm her nerves. As she sipped at the li;uid, she gazed across at the window. The moonlight was filtering through the open venetian blind and pla ing on the grain of the table. -he/d alwa s thought this would make a nicer director/s office than $ontaine/s current location on the front of the building. <ather than looking out over the 7-A parking lot, the conference room looked out over an impressive arra of 7-A outbuildings"including the 1r pto dome, a high%tech island floating separate from the main building on three wooded acres. Purposefull situated behind the natural cover of a grove of maples, 1r pto was difficult to see from most windows in the 7-A comple3, but the view from the directorial suite was perfect. To *idge the conference room seemed the perfect vantage point for a king to surve his domain. -he had suggested once that $ontaine move his office, but the director had simpl replied, '7ot on the rear.+ $ontaine was not a man to be found on the back end of an thing. *idge pulled apart the blinds. -he stared out at the hills. -ighing ruefull , she let her e es fall toward the spot where 1r pto stood. *idge had alwa s felt comforted b the sight of the 1r pto dome"a glowing beacon regardless of the hour. !ut tonight, as she gazed out, there was no comfort. Instead she found herself staring into a void. As she pressed her face to the glass, she was gripped b a wild, girlish panic. !elow her there was nothing but blackness. 1r pto had disappeared2

Chapter 57
The 1r pto bathrooms had no windows, and the darkness surrounding -usan $letcher was absolute. -he stood dead still for a moment tr ing to get her bearings, acutel aware of the growing sense of panic gripping her bod . The horrible cr from the ventilation shaft seemed to hang all around her. &espite her effort to fight off a rising sense of dread, fear swept across her flesh and took control. In a flurr of involuntar motion, -usan found herself groping wildl across stall doors and sinks. &isoriented, she spun through the blackness with her hands out in front of her and tried to picture the room. -he knocked over a garbage can and found herself against a tiled wall. $ollowing the wall with her hand, she scrambled toward the e3it and fumbled for the door handle. -he pulled it open and stumbled out onto the 1r pto floor. There she froze for a second time. The 1r pto floor looked nothing like it had 0ust moments ago. T<A7-,T< was a gra silhouette against the faint twilight coming in through the dome. All of the overhead lighting was dead. 7ot even the electronic ke pads on the doors were glowing. As -usan/s e es became accustomed to the dark, she saw that the onl light in 1r pto was coming through the open trapdoor"a faint red glow from the utilit lighting below. -he moved toward it. There was the faint smell of ozone in the air. (hen she made it to the trapdoor, she peered into the hole. The freon vents were still belching swirling mist through the redness, and from the higher%pitched drone of the generators, -usan knew 1r pto was running on backup power. Through the mist she could make out -trathmore standing on the platform below. .e was leaning over the railing and staring into the depths of T<A7-,T</s rumbling shaft. '1ommander2+ There was no response. -usan eased onto the ladder. The hot air from below rushed in under her skirt. The rungs were slipper with condensation. -he set herself down on the grated landing. '1ommander)+ -trathmore did not turn. .e continued staring down with a blank look of shock, as if in a trance. -usan followed his gaze over the banister. $or a moment she could see nothing e3cept wisps of steam. Then suddenl she saw it. A figure. -i3 stories below. It appeared briefl in the billows of

steam. There it was again. A tangled mass of twisted limbs. , ing ninet feet below them, Phil 1hartrukian was sprawled across the sharp iron fins of the main generator. .is bod was darkened and burned. .is fall had shorted out 1r pto/s main power suppl . !ut the most chilling image of all was not of 1hartrukian but of someone else, another bod , halfwa down the long staircase, crouched, hiding in the shadows. The muscular frame was unmistakable. It was 6reg .ale.

Chapter 58
The punk screamed at !ecker, '*egan belongs to m friend Eduardo2 4ou sta awa from her2+ '(here is she)+ !ecker/s heart was racing out of control. '$uck ou2+ 'It/s an emergenc 2+ !ecker snapped. .e grabbed the kid/s sleeve. '-he/s got a ring that belongs tome. I/ll pa her for it2 A lot2+ Two%Tone stopped dead and burst into h sterics. '4ou mean that ugl , gold piece of shit is ours)+ !ecker/s e es widened. '4ou/ve seen it)+ Two%Tone nodded co l . '(here is it)+ !ecker demanded. '7o clue.+ Two%Tone chuckled. '*egan was up here tr ing to hock it.+ '-he was tr ing to se!! it)+ '&on/t worr , man, she didn/t have an luck. 4ou/ve got shitt taste in 0ewelr .+ 'Are ou sure nobod bought it)+ 'Are ou shitting me) $or four hundred bucks) I told her I/d give her fift , but she wanted more. -he was tr ing to bu a plane ticket"standb .+ !ecker felt the blood drain from his face. '(hereto)+ '$uckin/ 1onnecticut,+ Two%tone snapped. 'Eddie/s bummin/.+ '1onnecticut)+ '-hit, eah. 6oing back to *omm and &add /s mansion in the burbs. .ated her -panish homesta famil . Three -pic brothers alwa s hitting on her. 7o fucking hot water.+ !ecker felt a knot rise in his throat. '(hen is she leaving)+ Two%Tone looked up. '(hen)+ .e laughed. '-he/s long gone b now. (ent to the airport hours ago. !est spot to hock the ring"rich tourists and shit. #nce she got the cash, she was fl ing out.+ A dull nausea swept through !ecker/s gut. This is some &ind of si & ?o&e, isnt it6 .e stood a long moment. '(hat/s her last name)+ Two%Tone pondered the ;uestion and shrugged. '(hat flight was she taking)+ '-he said something about the <oach 1oach.+ '<oach 1oach)+ '4eah. (eekend red%e e"-eville, *adrid, ,a 6uardia. That/s what the call it. 1ollege kids take it Ecause it/s cheap. 6uess the sit in back and smoke roaches.+ 'reat. !ecker groaned, running a hand through his hair. '(hat time did it leave)+ 'Two a.m. sharp, ever -aturda night. -he/s some whereover the Atlantic b now.+ !ecker checked his watch. It read @CL> p.m. .e turned to Two%Tone, confused. '4ou said it/s a two a.m. flight)+ The punk nodded, laughing. ',ooks like ou/re fucked, ol/ man.+ !ecker pointed angril to his watch. '!ut it/s onl ;uarter to two2+ Two%Tone e ed the watch, apparentl puzzled. '(ell, I/ll be damned.+ he laughed. 'I/m usuall not this buzzed till four a.m.2+ '(hat/s the fastest wa to the airport)+ !ecker snapped.

'Ta3i stand out front.+ !ecker grabbed a @,999%peseta note from his pocket and stuff edit in Two%Tone/s hand. '.e , man, thanks2+ the punk called after him. 'If ou see *egan, tell her I said hi2+ !ut !ecker was alread gone. Two%Tone sighed and staggered back toward the dance floor. .e was too drunk to notice the man in wire%rim glasses following him. #utside, !ecker scanned the parking lot for a ta3i. There was none. .e ran over to a stock bouncer. 'Ta3i2+ The bouncer shook his head. '&emasiado temprano. Too earl .+ Too earl ) !ecker swore. It/s two o/clock in the morning2 'PUdame uno2 1all me one2+ The man pulled out a walkie%talkie. .e said a few words and then signed off. ':einte minutos,+ he offered. 'Twent minutes)2+ !ecker demanded. '4 elautobus)+ The bouncer shrugged. '$ort %five minutos.+ !ecker threw up his hands. Perfe t4 The sound of a small engine turned !ecker/s head. It sounded like a chainsaw. A big kid and his chain%clad date pulled into the parking lot on an old :espa =>9 motorc cle. The girl/s skirt had blown high on her thighs. -he didn/t seem to notice. !ecker dashed over. 8 ant be!ie.e 8m doing this, he thought. 8 hate motor y !es. .e elled to the driver. 'I/ll pa ou ten thousand pesetas to take me to the airport2+ The kid ignored him and killed the engine. 'Twent thousand2+ !ecker blurted. 'I need to get to the airport2+ The kid looked up. '-cusi)+ .e was Italian. 'AeropSrto2 Per favore. -ulla :espa2 :enti mille pesete2+ The Italian e ed his crumm , little bike and laughed. ':enti mille pesete) ,a :espa)+ '1in;uanta mille2 $ift thousand2+ !ecker offered. It was about four hundred dollars. The Italian laughed doubtfull . '&ov/O la plata) (here/s the cash)+ !ecker pulled five @9,999%peseta notes from his pocket and held them out. The Italian looked at the mone and then at his girlfriend. The girl grabbed the cash and stuffed it in her blouse. 5'ra/ie47 the Italian beamed. .e tossed !ecker the ke s to his :espa. Then he grabbed his girlfriend/s hand, and the ran off laughing into the building. 'Aspetta2+ !ecker elled. '(ait2 I wanted a ride47

Chapter 59
-usan reached for 1ommander -trathmore/s hand as he helped her up the ladder onto the 1r pto floor. The image of Phil 1hartrukian l ing broken on the generators was burned into her mind. The thought of .ale hiding in the bowels of 1r pto had left her dizz . The truth was inescapable".ale had pushed 1hartrukian. -usan stumbled past the shadow of T<A7-,T< back toward 1r pto/s main e3it"the door she/d come through hours earlier. .er frantic punching on the unlit ke pad did nothing to move the huge portal. -he was trapped; 1r pto was a prison. The dome sat like a satellite, @9K ards awa from the main 7-A structure, accessible onl through the main portal. -ince 1r pto made its own power, the switchboard probabl didn/t even know the were in trouble. 'The main power/s out,+ -trathmore said, arriving behind her. '(e/re on au3.+ The backup power suppl in 1r pto was designed so that T<A7-,T< and its cooling s stems took precedence over all other s stems, including lights and doorwa s. That wa an untimel power outage would not interrupt T<A7-,T< during an important run. It also meant T<A7-,T< would never run without its freon cooling s stem; in an uncooled enclosure, the heat generated b three million processors would rise to treacherous levels"perhaps even igniting the silicon chips and resulting in a fier meltdown. It was an image no one dared consider.

-usan fought to get her bearings. .er thoughts were consumed b the single image of the - s%-ec on the generators. -he stabbed at the ke pad again. -till no response. 'Abort the run2+ she demanded. Telling T<A7-,T< to stop searching for the &igital $ortress pass%ke would shut down its circuits and free up enough backup power to get the doors working again. 'Eas , -usan,+ -trathmore said, putting a stead ing hand on her shoulder. The commander/s reassuring touch lifted -usan from her daze. -he suddenl remembered wh she had been going to get him. -he wheeled, '1ommander2 6reg .ale is 7orth &akota2+ There was a seemingl endless beat of silence in the dark. $inall -trathmore replied. .is voice sounded more confused than shocked. '(hat are ou talking about)+ '.ale5+ -usan whispered. '.e/s 7orth &akota.+ There was more silence as -trathmore pondered -usan/s words. 'The tracer)+ .e seemed confused. 'It fingered .ale)+ 'The tracer isn/t back et. .ale aborted it2+ -usan went on to e3plain how .ale had stopped her tracer and how she/d found E%mail from Tankado in .ale/s account. Another long moment of silence followed. -trathmore shook his head in disbelief. 'There/s no wa 'reg <a!e is Tankado/s insurance2 It/s absurd2 Tankado would never trust .ale.+ '1ommander,+ she said, '.ale sank us once before"-kip0ack. Tankado trusted him.+ -trathmore could not seem to find words. 'Abort T<A7-,T<,+ -usan begged him. '(e/ve got 7orth &akota. 1all building securit . ,et/s get out of here.+ -trathmore held up his hand re;uesting a moment to think. -usan looked nervousl in the direction of the trapdoor. The opening was 0ust out of sight behind T<A7-,T<, but the reddish glow spilled out over the black tile like fire on ice. 9ome on, a!! Se urity, 9ommander4 Abort T>A#S3T>4 'et us out of here4 -uddenl -trathmore sprang to action. '$ollow me,+ he said. .e strode toward the trapdoor. '1ommander2 .ale is dangerous2 .e"+ !ut -trathmore disappeared into the dark. -usan hurried to follow his silhouette. The commander circled around T<A7-,T< and arrived over the opening in the floor. .e peered into the swirling, steaming pit. -ilentl he looked around the darkened 1r pto floor. Then he bent down and heaved the heav trapdoor. It swung in a low arc. (hen he let go, it slammed shut with a deadening thud. 1r pto was once again a silent, blackened cave. It appeared 7orth &akota was trapped. -trathmore knelt down. .e turned the heav butterfl lock. It spun into place. The sublevels were sealed. 7either he nor -usan heard the faint steps in the direction of 7ode F.

Chapter 60
Two%tone headed through the mirrored corridor that led from the outside patio to the dance floor. As he turned to check his safet pin in the reflection, he sensed a figure looming up behind him. .e spun, but it was too late. A pair of rocklike arms pinned his bod face%first against the glass. The punk tried to twist around. 'Eduardo) .e , man, is that ou)+ Two%Tone felt a hand brush over his wallet before the figure leaned firml into his back. 'Eddie2+ the punk cried. 'Buit fooling around2 -ome gu was lookin/ for *egan.+ The figure held him firml . '.e , Eddie, man, cut it out2+ !ut when Two%Tone looked up into the mirror, he saw the figure pinning him was not his friend at all.

The face was pockmarked and scarred. Two lifeless e es stared out like coal from behind wire%rim glasses. The man leaned forward, placing his mouth against Two%Tone/s ear. A strange, voice choked, 5AdFnde fuD6 (here/d he go)+ The words sounded somehow misshapen. The punk froze, paral zed with fear. 5AdFnde fuD67 the voice repeated. 'El Americano.+ 'The5 the airport. Aeropuerto,+ Two%Tone stammered. 'Aeropuerto)+ the man repeated, his dark e es watching Two%Tone/s lips in the mirror. The punk nodded. 'TenUa el anillo) &id he have the ring)+ Terrified, Two%Tone shook his head. '7o.+ ':iste el anillo) &id ou see the ring)+ Two%Tone paused. (hat was the right answer) ':iste el anillo)+ the muffled voice demanded. Two%Tone nodded affirmativel , hoping honest would pa . It did not. -econds later he slid to the floor, his neck broken.

Chapter 61
?abba la on his back lodged halfwa inside a dismantled mainframe computer. There was a penlight in his mouth, a soldering iron in his hand, and a large schematic blueprint propped on his bell . .e had 0ust finished attaching a new set of attenuators to a fault motherboard when his cellular phone sprang to life. '-hit,+ he swore, groping for the receiver through a pile of cables. '?abba here.+ '?abba, it/s *idge.+ .e brightened. 'Twice in one night) People are gonna start talking.+ '1r pto/s got problems.+ .er voice was tense. ?abba frowned. '(e been through this alread . <emember)+ 'It/s a po$er problem.+ 'I/m not an electrician. 1all Engineering.+ 'The dome/s dark.+ '4ou/re seeing things. 6o home.+ .e turned back to his schematic. 'Pitch black2+ she elled. ?abba sighed and set down his penlight. '*idge, first of all, we/ve got au3 power in there. It would never be pit h black. -econd, -trathmore/s got a slightl better view of 1r pto than I do right now. (h don/t ou call him67 '!ecause this has to do with him. .e/s hiding something.+ ?abba rolled his e es. '*idge sweetie, I/m up to m armpits in serial cable here. If ou need a date, I/ll cut loose. #therwise, call Engineering.+ '?abba, this is serious. I can fee! it.+ She an fee! it6 It was official, ?abba thought, *idge was in one of her moods. 'If -trathmore/s not worried, 8m not worried.+ '1r pto/s pitch black, dammit2+ '-o ma be -trathmore/s stargazing.+ '?abba2 I/m not kidding around here2+ '#ka , oka ,+ he grumbled, propping himself up on an elbow. '*a be a generator shorted out. As soon as I/m done here, I/ll stop b 1r pto and"+ '(hat about au3 power2+ *idge demanded. 'If a generator blew, wh is there no au3 power)+ 'I don/t know. *a be -trathmore/s got T<A7-,T< running and au3 power is tapped out.+ '-o wh doesn/t he abort) *a be it/s a virus. 4ou said something earlier about a virus.+ '&amn it, *idge2+ ?abba e3ploded. 'I told ou, there/s no virus in 1r pto2 -top being so damned paranoid47

There was a long silence on the line. 'Aw, shit, *idge,+ ?abba apologized. ',et me e3plain.+ .is voice was tight. '$irst of all, we/ve got 6auntlet"no virus could possibl get through. -econd, if there/s a power failure, it/s hard$are- related"viruses don/t kill po$er, the attack software and data. (hatever/s going on in 1r pto, it/s not a virus.+ -ilence. '*idge) 4ou there)+ *idge/s response was ic . '?abba, I have a 0ob to do. I don/t e3pect to be elled at for doing it. (hen I call to ask wh a multi billion%dollar facilit is in the dark, I e3pect a professional response.+ '4es, ma/am.+ 'A simple es or no will suffice. Is it possible the problem in 1r pto is virus%related)+ '*idge5 I told ou"+ '4es or no. 1ould T<A7-,T< have a virus)+ ?abba sighed. '7o, *idge. It/s totall impossible.+ 'Thank ou.+ .e forced a chuckle and tried to lighten the mood. 'Dnless ou think -trathmore wrote one himself and b passed m filters.+ There was a stunned silence. (hen *idge spoke, her voice had an eerie edge. '-trathmore can bypass 6auntlet)+ ?abba sighed. 'It was a ?o&e, *idge.+ !ut he knew it was too late.

Chapter 62
The 1ommander and -usan stood beside the closed trapdoor and debated what to do ne3t. '(e/ve got Phil 1hartrukian dead down there,+ -trathmore argued. 'If we call for help, 1r pto will turn into a circus.+ '-o what do ou propose we do)+ -usan demanded, wanting onl to leave. -trathmore thought a moment. '&on/t ask me how it happened,+ he said, glancing down at the locked trapdoor, 'but it looks like we/ve inadvertentl located and neutralized 7orth &akota.+ .e shook his head in disbelief. '&amn luck break if ou ask me.+ .e still seemed stunned b the idea that .ale was involved in Tankado/s plan. '* guess is that .ale/s got the pass%ke hidden in his terminal somewhere"ma be he/s got a cop at home. Either wa , he/s trapped.+ '-o wh not call building securit and let them cart him awa )+ '7ot et,+ -trathmore said, 'if the - s%-ecs uncover stats of this endless T<A7-,T< run, we/ve got a whole new set of problems. I want all traces of &igital $ortress deleted before we open the doors.+ -usan nodded reluctantl . It was a good plan. (hen -ecurit finall pulled .ale from the sublevels and charged him with 1hartrukian/s death, he probabl would threaten to tell the world about &igital $ortress. !ut the proof would be erased"-trathmore could pla dumb. An end!ess run6 An unbrea&ab!e a!gorithm6 +ut thats absurd4 <asnt <a!e heard of the +ergofs&y Prin ip!e6 '.ere/s what we need to do.+ -trathmore cooll outlined his plan. '(e erase all of .ale/s correspondence with Tankado. (e erase all records of m b passing 6auntlet, all of 1hartrukian/s - s%-ec anal sis, the <un%*onitor records, ever thing. &igital $ortress disappears. It was never here. (e bur .ale/s ke and pra to 6od &avid finds Tankado/s cop .+ Da.id, -usan thought. -he forced him from her mind. -he needed to sta focused on the matter at hand. 'I/ll handle the - s%-ec lab,+ -trathmore said. '<un%*onitor stats, mutation activit stats, the works. 4ou handle 7ode F. &elete all of .ale/s E%mail. An records of correspondence with Tankado, an thing that mentions &igital $ortress.+ '#ka ,+ -usan replied, focusing. 'I/ll erase .ale/s whole drive. <eformat ever thing.+

'7o2+ -trathmore/s response was stern. '&on/t do that. .ale most likel has a cop of the pass%ke in there. I want it.+ -usan gaped in shock. '4ou want the pass%ke ) I thought the whole point was to destroy the pass%ke s2+ 'It is. !ut I want a cop . I want to crack open this damn file and have a look at Tankado/s program.+ -usan shared -trathmore/s curiosit , but instinct told her unlocking the &igital $ortress algorithm was not wise, regardless of how interesting it would be. <ight now, the deadl program was locked safel in its encr pted vault"totall harmless. As soon as he decr pted it5. '1ommander, wouldn/t we be better off 0ust to"+ 'I want the ke ,+ he replied. -usan had to admit, ever since hearing about &igital $ortress, she/d felt a certain academic curiosit to know how Tankado had managed to write it. Its mere e3istence contradicted the most fundamental rules of cr ptograph . -usan e ed the commander. '4ou/ll delete the algorithm immediatel after we see it)+ '(ithout a trace.+ -usan frowned. -he knew that finding .ale/s ke would not happen instantl . ,ocating a random pass%ke on one of the 7ode F hard drives was somewhat like tr ing to find a single sock in a bedroom the size of Te3as. 1omputer searches onl worked when ou knew what ou were looking for; this pass%ke was random. $ortunatel , however, because 1r pto dealt with so much random material, -usan and some others had developed a comple3 process known as a nonconformit search. The search essentiall asked the computer to stud ever string of characters on its hard drive, compare each string against an enormous dictionar , and flag an strings that seemed nonsensical or random. It was trick work to refine the parameters continuall , but it was possible. -usan knew she was the logical choice to find the pass%ke . -he sighed, hoping she wouldn/t regret it. 'If all goes well, it will take me about half an hour.+ 'Then let/s get to work,+ -trathmore said, putting a hand on her shoulder and leading her through the darkness toward 7ode F. Above them, a star%filled sk had stretched itself across the dome. -usan wondered if &avid could see the same stars from -eville. As the approached the heav glass doors of 7ode F, -trathmore swore under his breath. The 7ode F ke pad was unlit, and the doors were dead. '&amn it,+ he said. '7o power. I forgot.+ -trathmore studied the sliding doors. .e placed his palms flat against the glass. Then he leaned sidewa s tr ing to slide them open. .is hands were sweat and slipped. .e wiped them on his pants and tried again. This time the doors slid open a tin crack. -usan, sensing progress, got in behind -trathmore and the both pushed together. The doors slid open about an inch. The held it a moment, but the pressure was too great. The doors sprang shut again. '.old on,+ -usan said, repositioning herself in front of -trathmore. '#ka , now tr .+ The heaved. Again the door opened onl about an inch. A faint ra of blue light appeared from inside 7ode F; the terminals were still on; the were considered critical to T<A7-,T< and were receiving au3 power. -usan dug the toe of her $erragamo/s into the floor and pushed harder. The door started to move. -trathmore moved to get a better angle. 1entering his palms on the left slider, he pushed straight back. -usan pushed the right slider in the opposite direction. -lowl , arduousl , the doors began to separate. The were now almost a foot apart. '&on/t let go,+ -trathmore said, panting as the pushed harder. '?ust a little farther.+ -usan repositioned herself with her shoulder in the crack. -he pushed again, this time with a better angle. The doors fought back against her.

!efore -trathmore could stop her, -usan s;ueezed her slender bod into the opening. -trathmore protested, but she was intent. -he wanted out of 1r pto, and she knew -trathmore well enough to know she wasn/t going an where until .ale/s pass%ke was found. -he centered herself in the opening and pushed with all her strength. The doors seemed to push back. -uddenl -usan lost her grip. The doors sprang toward her. -trathmore fought to hold them off, but it was too much. ?ust as the doors slammed shut, -usan s;ueezed through and collapsed on the other side. The commander fought to reopen the door a tin sliver. .e put his face to the narrow crack. '?esus, -usan"are ou oka )+ -usan stood up and brushed herself off. '$ine.+ -he looked around. 7ode F was deserted, lit onl b the computer monitors. The bluish shadows gave the place a ghostl ambiance. -he turned to -trathmore in the crack of the door. .is face looked pallid and sickl in the blue light. '-usan,+ he said. '6ive me twent minutes to delete the files in - s%-ec. (hen all traces are gone, I/ll go up to m terminal and abort T<A7-,T<.+ '4ou better,7 -usan said, e eing the heav glass doors. -he knew that until T<A7-,T< stopped hoarding au3 power, she was a prisoner in 7ode F. -trathmore let go of the doors, and the snapped shut. -usan watched through the glass as the commander disappeared into the 1r pto darkness.

Chapter 63
!ecker/s newl purchased :espa motorc cle struggled up the entr road to Aeropuerto de -evilla. .is knuckles had been white the whole wa . .is watch read 0ust after =C99 a.m. local time. As he approached the main terminal, he rode up on the sidewalk and 0umped off the bike while it was still moving. It clattered to the pavement and sputtered to a stop. !ecker dashed on rubber legs through the revolving door. #e.er again, he swore to himself. The terminal was sterile and starkl lit. E3cept for a 0anitor buffing the floor, the place was deserted. Across the concourse, a ticket agent was closing down the Iberia Airlines counter. !ecker took it as a bad sign. .e ran over. 'El vuelo a los Estados Dnidos)+ The attractive Andalusian woman behind the counter looked up and smiled apologeticall . 'Acaba de salir. 4ou 0ust missed it.+ .er words hung in the air for a long moment. 8 missed it. !ecker/s shoulders slumped. '(as there standb room on the flight)+ 'Plent ,+ the woman smiled. 'Almost empt . !ut tomorrow/s eight a.m. also has"+ 'I need to know if a friend of mine made that flight. -he was fl ing standb .+ The woman frowned. 'I/m sorr , sir. There were several standb passengers tonight, but our privac clause states"+ 'It/s ver important,+ !ecker urged. 'I 0ust need to know if she made the flight. That/s all.+ The woman gave a s mpathetic nod. ',overs/ ;uarrel)+ !ecker thought a moment. Then he gave her a sheepish grin. 'It/s that obvious)+ -he gave him a wink. '(hat/s her name)+ '*egan,+ he replied sadl . The agent smiled. '&oes our lad friend have a last name)+ !ecker e3haled slowl . %es, but 8 dont &no$ it4 + Actuall , it/s kind of a complicated situation. 4ou said the plane was almost empt . *a be ou could"+ '(ithout a last name I reall can/t5+ 'Actuall ,+ !ecker interrupted, having another idea. '.ave ou been on all night)+ The woman nodded. '-even to seven.+ 'Then ma be ou saw her. -he/s a oung girl. *a be fifteen or si3teen) .er hair was"+ !efore the words left his mouth, !ecker realized his mistake. The agent/s e es narrowed. '4our lover is fifteen ears old)+

'7o2+ !ecker gasped. 'I mean5+ Shit. 'If ou could 0ust help me, it/s ver important.+ 'I/m sorr ,+ the woman said coldl . 'It/s not the wa it sounds. If ou could 0ust"+ '6ood night, sir.+ The woman anked the metal grate down over the counter and disappeared into a back room. !ecker groaned and stared sk ward. Smooth, &avid. :er smooth. .e scanned the open concourse. 7othing. She must ha.e so!d the ring and made the f!ight. .e headed for the custodian. '.as visto a una niWa)+ he called over the sound of the tile buffer. '.ave ou seen a girl)+ The old man reached down and killed the machine. 'Eh)+ 'Dna niWa)+ !ecker repeated. 'Pelo ro0o, azul, blanco. <ed white and blue hair.+ The custodian laughed. 'BuO fea. -ounds ugl .+ .e shook his head and went back to work. *** &avid !ecker stood in the middle of the deserted airport concourse and wondered what to do ne3t. The evening had been a comed of errors. -trathmore/s words pounded in his headC &on/t call until ou have the ring. A profound e3haustion settled over him. If *egan sold the ring and made the flight, there was no telling who had the ring now. !ecker closed his e es and tried to focus. (hats my next mo.e6 .e decided to consider it in a moment. $irst, he needed to make a long%overdue trip to a rest room.

Chapter 64
-usan stood alone in the diml lit silence of 7ode F. The task at hand was simpleC Access .ale/s terminal, locate his ke , and then delete all of his communication with Tankado. There could be no hint of &igital $ortress an where. -usan/s initial fears of saving the ke and unlocking &igital $ortress were nagging at her again. -he felt uneas tempting fate; the /d been luck so far. 7orth &akota had miraculousl appeared right under their noses and been trapped. The onl remaining ;uestion was &avid; he had to find the other pass%ke . -usan hoped he was making progress. As she made her wa deeper into 7ode F, -usan tried to clear her mind. It was odd that she felt uneas in such a familiar space. Ever thing in 7ode F seemed foreign in the dark. !ut there was something else. -usan felt a momentar hesitation and glanced back at the inoperable doors. There was no escape. T$enty minutes, she thought. As she turned toward .ale/s terminal, she noticed a strange, musk odor"it was definitel not a 7ode F smell. -he wondered if ma be the deionizer was malfunctioning. The smell was vaguel familiar, and with it came an unsettling chill. -he pictured .ale locked below in his enormous steaming cell. Did he set something on fire6 -he looked up at the vents and sniffed. !ut the odor seemed to be coming from nearb . -usan glanced toward the latticed doors of the kitchenette. And in an instant she recognized the smell. It was o!ogne and s$eat. -he recoiled instinctivel , not prepared for what she saw. $rom behind the lattice slats of the kitchenette, two e es stared out at her. It onl took an instant for the horrif ing truth to hit her. 6reg .ale was not locked on the sublevels"he was in 7ode F2 .e/d slipped upstairs before -trathmore closed the trapdoor. .e/d been strong enough to open the doors all b himself. -usan had once heard that raw terror was paral zing"she now knew that was a m th. In the same instant her brain grasped what was happening, she was in motion"stumbling backward through the dark with a single thought in mindC escape. The crash behind her was instantaneous. .ale had been sitting silentl on the stove and e3tended his legs like two battering rams. The doors e3ploded off their hinges. .ale launched himself into the room and thundered after her with powerful strides.

-usan knocked over a lamp behind her, attempting to trip .ale as he moved toward her. -he sensed him vault it effortlessl . .ale was gaining ;uickl . (hen his right arm circled her waist from behind, it felt like she/d hit a steel bar. -he gasped in pain as the wind went out of her. .is biceps fle3ed against her rib cage. -usan resisted and began twisting wildl . -omehow her elbow struck cartilage. .ale released his grip, his hands clutching his nose. .e fell to his knees, hands cupped over his face. '-on of a"+ .e screamed in pain. -usan dashed onto the door/s pressure plates sa ing a fruitless pra er that -trathmore would in that instant restore power and the doors would spring open. Instead, she found herself pounding against the glass. .ale lumbered toward her, his nose covered with blood. In an instant, his hands were around her again"one of them clamped firml on her left breast and the other on her midsection. .e anked her awa from the door. -he screamed, her hand outstretched in futile attempt to stop him. .e pulled her backward, his belt buckle digging into her spine. -usan couldn/t believe his strength. .e dragged her back across the carpet, and her shoes came off. In one fluid motion, .ale lifted her and dumped her on the floor ne3t to his terminal. -usan was suddenl on her back, her skirt bunched high on her hips. The top button of her blouse had released, and her chest was heaving in the bluish light. -he stared up in terror as .ale straddled her, pinning her down. -he couldn/t decipher the look in his e es. It looked like fear. #r was it anger) .is e es bore into her bod . -he felt a new wave of panic. .ale sat firml on her midsection, staring down at her with an ic glare. Ever thing -usan had ever learned about self%defense was suddenl racing through her mind. -he tried to fight, but her bod did not respond. -he was numb. -he closed her e es. #h, please, 6od. 7o2

Chapter 65
!rinkerhoff paced *idge/s office. '#obody b passes 6auntlet. It/s impossible2+ '(rong,+ she fired back. 'I 0ust talked to ?abba. .e said he installed a b pass switch last ear.+ The PA looked doubtful. 'I never heard that.+ '7obod did. It was hush%hush.+ '*idge,+ !rinkerhoff argued, '?abba/s compulsive about securit 2 .e would never put in a switch to b pass"+ '-trathmore made him do it,+ she interrupted. !rinkerhoff could almost hear her mind clicking. '<emember last ear,+ she asked, 'when -trathmore was working on that anti%-emitic terrorist ring in 1alifornia)+ !rinkerhoff nodded. It had been one of -trathmore/s ma0or coups last ear. Dsing T<A7-,T< to decr pt an intercepted code, he had uncovered a plot to bomb a .ebrew school in ,os Angeles. .e decr pted the terrorist/s message onl twelve minutes before the bomb went off, and using some fast phone work, he saved three hundred schoolchildren. '6et this,+ *idge said, lowering her voice unnecessaril . '?abba said -trathmore intercepted that terrorist code six hours before that bomb went off.+ !rinkerhoff/s 0aw dropped. '!ut5 then wh did he wait"+ '!ecause he couldn/t get T<A7-,T< to decr pt the file. .e tried, but 6auntlet kept re0ecting it. It was encr pted with some new public ke algorithm that the filters hadn/t seen et. It took ?abba almost si3 hours to ad0ust them.+ !rinkerhoff looked stunned. '-trathmore was furious. .e made ?abba install a b pass switch in 6auntlet in case it ever happened again.+

'?esus.+ !rinkerhoff whistled. 'I had no idea.+ Then his e es narrowed. '-o what/s our point)+ 'I think -trathmore used the switch toda 5 to process a file that 6auntlet re0ected.+ '-o) That/s what the switch is for, right)+ *idge shook her head. '7ot if the file in ;uestion is a virus.+ !rinkerhoff 0umped. 'A virus) (ho said an thing about a virus2+ 'It/s the onl e3planation,+ she said. '?abba said a virus is the onl thing that could keep T<A7-,T< running this long, so"+ '(ait a minute2+ !rinkerhoff flashed her the time%out sign. '-trathmore said ever thing/s fine2+ '.e/s l ing.+ !rinkerhoff was lost. '4ou/re sa ing -trathmore intentiona!!y let a virus into T<A7-,T<)+ '7o,+ she snapped. 'I don/t think he &ne$ it was a virus. I think he was tricked.+ !rinkerhoff was speechless. *idge *ilken was definitel losing it. 'It e3plains a lot,+ she insisted. 'It e3plains what he/s been doing in there all night.+ 'Planting viruses in his own computer)+ '7o,+ she said, anno ed. 'Tr ing to cover up his mistake2 And now he can/t abort T<A7-,T< and get au3 power back because the virus has the processors locked down2+ !rinkerhoff rolled his e es. *idge had gone nuts in the past, but never like this. .e tried to calm her. '?abba doesn/t seem to be too worried.+ '?abba/s a fool,+ she hissed. !rinkerhoff looked surprised. 7obod had ever called ?abba a fool"a pig ma be, but never a fool. '4ou/re trusting feminine intuition over ?abba/s advanced degrees in anti%invasive programming)+ -he e ed him harshl . !rinkerhoff held up his hands in surrender. '7ever mind. I take it back.+ .e didn/t need to be reminded of *idge/s uncann abilit to sense disaster. '*idge,+ he begged. 'I know ou hate -trathmore, but"+ 'This has nothing to do with -trathmore2+ *idge was in overdrive. 'The first thing we need to do is confirm -trathmore b passed 6auntlet. Then we call the director.+ '6reat.+ !rinkerhoff moaned. 'I/ll call -trathmore and ask him to send us a signed statement.+ '7o,+ she replied, ignoring his sarcasm. '-trathmore/s lied to us once alread toda .+ -he glanced up, her e es probing his. '&o ou have ke s to $ontaine/s office) '#f course. I/m his PA.+ 'I need them.+ !rinkerhoff stared in disbelief. '*idge, there/s no wa in hell I/m letting ou into $ontaine/s office.+ '4ou have to2+ she demanded. *idge turned and started t ping on !ig !rother/s ke board. 'I/m re;uesting a T<A7-,T< ;ueue list. If -trathmore manuall b passed 6auntlet, it/ll show up on the printout.+ '(hat does that have to do with $ontaine/s office)+ -he spun and glared at him. 'The ;ueue list onl prints to $ontaine/s printer. 4ou know that2+ 'That/s because it/s !assified, *idge2+ 'This is an emergenc . I need to see that list.+ !rinkerhoff put his hands on her shoulders. '*idge, please settle down. 4ou know I can/t"+ -he huffed loudl and spun back to her ke board. 'I/m printing a ;ueue list. I/m going to walk in, pick it up, and walk out. 7ow give me the ke .+ '*idge5+ -he finished t ping and spun back to him. '1had, the report prints in thirt seconds. .ere/s the deal. 4ou give me the ke . If -trathmore b passed, we call securit . If I/m wrong, I leave, and

ou can go smear marmalade all over 1armen .uerta.+ -he gave him a malicious glare and held out her hands for the ke s. 'I/m waiting.+ !rinkerhoff groaned, regretting that he had called her back to check the 1r pto report. .e e ed her outstretched hand. '4ou/re talking about classified information inside the director/s private ;uarters. &o ou have an idea what would happen if we got caught)+ 'The director is in -outh America.+ 'I/m sorr . I 0ust can/t.+ !rinkerhoff crossed his arms and walked out. *idge stared after him, her gra e es smoldering. '#h, es ou can,+ she whispered. Then she turned back to !ig !rother and called up the video archives. *** Midge!! get o.er it, !rinkerhoff told himself as he settled in at his desk and started going over the rest of his reports. .e couldn/t be e3pected to hand out the director/s ke s whenever *idge got paranoid. .e had 0ust begun checking the 1#*-E1 breakdowns when his thoughts were interrupted b the sound of voices coming from the other room. .e set down his work and walked to his doorwa . The main suite was dark"all e3cept a dim shaft of gra ish light from *idge/s half%open door. .e listened. The voices continued. The sounded e3cited. '*idge)+ 7o response. .e strode through the darkness to her workspace. The voices were vaguel familiar. .e pushed the door open. The room was empt . *idge/s chair was empt . The sound was coming from overhead. !rinkerhoff looked up at the video monitors and instantl felt ill. The same image was pla ing on each one of the twelve screens"a kind of perversel choreographed ballet. !rinkerhoff steadied himself on the back of *idge/s chair and watched in horror. '1had)+ The voice was behind him. .e spun and s;uinted into the darkness. *idge was standing kitt %corner across the main suite/s reception area in front of the director/s double doors. .er palm was outstretched. 'The ke , 1had.+ !rinkerhoff flushed. .e turned back to the monitors. .e tried to block out the images overhead, but it was no use. .e was ever where, groaning with pleasure and eagerl fondling 1armen .uerta/s small, hone %covered breasts.

Chapter 66
!ecker crossed the concourse toward the rest room doors onl to find the door marked 1A!A,,E<#- blocked b an orange p lon and a cleaning cart filled with detergent and mops. .e e ed the other door. &A*A-. .e strode over and rapped loudl . '.ola)+ he called, pushing the ladies/ room door open an inch. '1on permiso)+ -ilence. .e went in. The rest room was t pical, -panish institutional"perfectl s;uare, white tile, one incandescent bulb overhead. As usual, there was one stall and one urinal. (hether the urinals were ever used in the women/s bathrooms was immaterial"adding them saved the contractors the e3pense of having to build the e3tra stall. !ecker peered into the rest room in disgust. It was filth . The sink was clogged with murk brown water. &irt paper towels were strewn ever where. The floor was soaked. The old electric handblower on the wall was smeared with greenish fingerprints. !ecker stepped in front of the mirror and sighed. The e es that usuall stared back with fierce clarit were not so clear tonight. <o$ !ong ha.e 8 been running around o.er here6 he wondered.

The math escaped him. #ut of professorial habit, he shimmied his necktie/s (indsor knot up on his collar. Then he turned to the urinal behind him. As he stood there, he found himself wondering if -usan was home et. (here ou!d she ha.e gone6 To Stone Manor $ithout me6 '.e 2+ a female voice behind him said angril . !ecker 0umped. 'I%I/m5+ he stammered, hurr ing to zip up. 'I/m sorr 5 I5+ !ecker turned to face the girl who had 0ust entered. -he was a oung sophisticate, right off the pages of Se.enteen Maga/ine. -he wore conservative plaid pants and a white sleeveless blouse. In her hand was a red ,. ,. !ean duffel. .er blond hair was perfectl blow%dried. 'I/m sorr .+ !ecker fumbled, buckling his belt. 'The men/s room was5 an wa 5 I/m leaving.+ '$uckin/ weirdo2+ !ecker did a double%take. The profanit seemed inappropriate coming from her lips"like sewage flowing from a polished decanter. !ut as !ecker studied her, he saw that she was not as polished as he/d first thought. .er e es were puff and bloodshot, and her left forearm was swollen. Dnderneath the reddish irritation on her arm, the flesh was blue. ?esus, !ecker thought. Intravenous drugs. (ho would have guessed) '6et out2+ she elled. '?ust get out2+ !ecker momentaril forgot all about the ring, the 7-A, all of it. .is heart went out to the oung girl. .er parents had probabl sent her over here with some prep school stud program and a :I-A card"and she/d ended up all alone in a bathroom in the middle of the night doing drugs. 'Are ou oka )+ he asked, backing toward the door. 'I/m fine.+ .er voice was haught . '4ou can leave now2+ !ecker turned to go. .e shot her forearm a last sad glance. Theres nothing you an do, &avid. 3ea.e it a!one. '7ow2+ she hollered. !ecker nodded. As he left he gave her a sad smile. '!e careful.+

Chapter 67
'-usan)+ .ale panted, his face in hers. .e was sitting, one leg on either side of her, his full weight on her midsection. .is tailbone ground painfull into her pubis through the thin fabric of her skirt. .is nose was dripping blood all over her. -he tasted vomit in the back of her throat. .is hands were at her chest. -he felt nothing. 8s he tou hing me6 It took a moment for -usan to realize .ale was buttoning her top button and covering her up. '-usan.+ .ale gasped, breathless. '4ou/ve got to get me out of here.+ -usan was in a daze. 7othing made sense. '-usan, ou/ve got to help me2 -trathmore killed 1hartrukian2 I saw it2+ It took a moment for the words to register. Strathmore &i!!ed 9hartru&ian6 .ale obviousl had no idea -usan had seen him downstairs. '-trathmore knows I saw him2+ .ale spat. '.e/ll kill me too2+ .ad -usan not been breathless with fear, she would have laughed in his face. -he recognized the divide%and%con;uer mentalit of an e3%*arine. Invent lies"pit our enemies against each other. 'It/s true2+ he elled. '(e/ve got to call for help2 I think we/re both in danger2+ -he did not believe a word he said. .ale/s muscular legs were cramping, and he rolled up on his haunches to shift his weight slightl . .e opened his mouth to speak, but he never got the chance. As .ale/s bod rose, -usan felt the circulation surge back into her legs. !efore she knew what had happened, a refle3 instinct 0erked her left leg back hard into .ale/s crotch. -he felt her kneecap crush the soft sac of tissue between his legs.

.ale whimpered in agon and instantl went limp. .e rolled onto his side, clutching himself. -usan twisted out from under his deadweight. -he staggered toward the door, knowing she/d never be strong enough to get out. *aking a split%second decision, -usan positioned herself behind the long maple meeting table and dug her feet into the carpet. *ercifull the table had casters. -he strode with all her might toward the arched glass wall, pushing the table before her. The casters were good, and the table rolled well. .alfwa across 7ode F, she was at a full sprint. $ive feet from the glass wall, -usan heaved and let go. -he leapt to one side and covered her e es. After a sickening crack, the wall e3ploded in a shower of glass. The sounds of 1r pto rushed into 7ode F for the first time since its construction. -usan looked up. Through the 0agged hole, she could see the table. It was still rolling. It spun wide circles out across the 1r pto floor and eventuall disappeared into the darkness. -usan rammed her mangled $erragamo/s back on her feet, shot a last glance at the still%writhing 6reg .ale, and dashed across the sea of broken glass out onto the 1r pto floor.

Chapter 68
'7ow wasn/t that eas )+ *idge said with a sneer as !rinkerhoff handed over the ke to $ontaine/s office. !rinkerhoff looked beaten. 'I/ll erase it before I go,+ *idge promised. 'Dnless ou and our wife want it for our private collection.+ '?ust get the damned printout,+ he snapped. 'And then get out2+ '-U, seWor,+ *idge cackled in a thick Puerto <ican accent. -he winked and headed across the suite to $ontaine/s double doors. ,eland $ontaine/s private office looked nothing like the rest of the directorial suite. There were no paintings, no overstuffed chairs, no ficus plants, no anti;ue clocks. .is space was streamlined for efficienc . .is glass%topped desk and black leather chair sat directl in front of his enormous picture window. Three file cabinets stood in the corner ne3t to a small table with a $rench press coffeepot. The moon had risen high over $ort *eade, and the soft light filtering through the window accentuated the starkness of the director/s furnishings. (hat the hell am I doing) !rinkerhoff wondered. *idge strode to the printer and scooped up the ;ueue list. -he s;uinted in the darkness. 'I can/t read the data,+ she complained. 'Turn on the lights.+ '4ou/re reading it outside. 7ow come on.+ !ut *idge was apparentl having too much fun. -he to ed with !rinkerhoff, walking to the window and angling the readout for a better view. '*idge5+ -he kept reading. !rinkerhoff shifted an3iousl in the doorwa . '*idge5 come on. These are the director/s private ;uarters.+ 'It/s here somewhere,+ she muttered, stud ing the printout. '-trathmore b passed 6auntlet, I know it.+ -he moved closer to the window. !rinkerhoff began to sweat. *idge kept reading. After a few moments, she gasped. 'I knew it2 -trathmore did it2 .e reall did2 The idiot2+ -he held up the paper and shook it. '.e b passed 6auntlet2 .ave a look2+ !rinkerhoff stared dumbfounded a moment and then raced across the director/s office. .e crowded in ne3t to *idge in front of the window. -he pointed to the end of the readout. !rinkerhoff read in disbelief. '(hat the5)+ The printout contained a list of the last thirt %si3 files that had entered T<A7-,T<. After each file was a four%digit 6auntlet clearance code. .owever, the last file on the sheet had no clearance code"it simpl readC manual b pass.

?esus, !rinkerhoff thought. *idge strikes again. 'The idiot2+ *idge sputtered, seething. ',ook at this2 6auntlet re0ected the file twice2 *utation strings2 And he sti!! b passed2 (hat the hell was he thinking)+ !rinkerhoff felt weak%kneed. .e wondered wh *idge was alwa s right. 7either of them noticed the reflection that had appeared in the window beside them. A massive figure was standing in $ontaine/s open doorwa . '?eez,+ !rinkerhoff choked. '4ou think we have a virus)+ *idge sighed. '7othing else it could be.+ '1ould be none of our damn business2+ the deep voice boomed from behind them. *idge knocked her head against the window. !rinkerhoff tipped over the director/s chair and wheeled toward the voice. .e immediatel knew the silhouette. '&irector2+ !rinkerhoff gasped. .e strode over and e3tended his hand. '(elcome home, sir.+ The huge man ignored it. 'I%I thought,+ !rinkerhoff stammered, retracting his hand, 'I thought ou were in -outh America.+ ,eland $ontaine glared down at his aide with e es like bullets. '4es5 and now I/m back.+

Chapter 69
'.e , mister2+ !ecker had been walking across the concourse toward a bank of pa phones. .e stopped and turned. 1oming up behind him was the girl he/d 0ust surprised in the bathroom. -he waved for him to wait. '*ister, wait2+ 7ow what) !ecker groaned. -he wants to press invasion%of%privac charges) The girl dragged her duffel toward him. (hen she arrived, she was now wearing a huge smile. '-orr to ell at ou back there. 4ou 0ust kind of startled me.+ '7o problem,+ !ecker assured, somewhat puzzled. 'I was in the wrong place.+ 'This will sound craz ,+ she said, batting her bloodshot e es. '!ut ou wouldn/t happen to have some mone ou can lend me, would ou)+ !ecker stared at her in disbelief. '*one for what)+ he demanded. 8m not funding your drug habit if thats $hat youre as&ing. 'I/m tr ing to get back home,+ the blonde said. '1an ou help)+ '*iss our flight)+ -he nodded. ',ost m ticket. The wouldn/t let me get on. Airlines can be such assholes. I don/t have the cash to bu another.+ '(here are our parents)+ !ecker asked. '-tates.+ '1an ou reach them)+ '7ope. Alread tried. I think the /re weekending on somebod /s acht.+ !ecker scanned the girl/s e3pensive clothing. '4ou don/t have a credit card)+ '4eah, but m dad canceled it. .e thinks I/m on drugs.+ 'Are ou on drugs)+ !ecker asked, deadpan, e eing her swollen forearm. The girl glared, indignant. '#f course not2+ -he gave !ecker an innocent huff, and he suddenl got the feeling he was being pla ed. '1ome on,+ she said. '4ou look like a rich gu . 1an/t ou spot me some cash to get home) I could send it to ou later.+ !ecker figured an cash he gave this girl would end up in the hands of some drug dealer in Triana. '$irst of all,+ he said, 'I/m not a rich gu "I/m a teacher. !ut I/ll tell ou what I/ll do5+ 8!! a!! your b!uff, thats $hat 8!! do. '(h don/t I harge the ticket for ou)+ The blonde stared at him in utter shock. '4ou/d do that)+ she stammered, e es wide with hope. '4ou/d bu me a ticket home) #h, 6od, thank ou2+ !ecker was speechless. .e had apparentl mis0udged the moment.

The girl threw her arms around him. 'It/s been a shitt summer,+ she choked, almost bursting into tears. '#h, thank ou2 I/ve got to get out of here2+ !ecker returned her embrace halfheartedl . The girl let go of him, and he e ed her forearm again. -he followed his gaze to the bluish rash. '6ross, huh)+ !ecker nodded. 'I thought ou said ou weren/t on drugs.+ The girl laughed. 'It/s *agic *arker2 I took off half m skin tr ing to scrub it off. The ink smeared.+ !ecker looked closer. In the fluorescent light, he could see, blurred beneath the reddish swelling on her arm, the faint outline of writing"words scrawled on flesh. '!ut5 but our eyes,7 !ecker said, feeling dumb. 'The /re all red.+ -he laughed. 'I was cr ing. I told ou, I missed m flight.+ !ecker looked back at the words on her arm. -he frowned, embarrassed. '#ops, ou can still kind of read it, can/t ou)+ !ecker leaned closer. .e could read it all right. The message was cr stal clear. As he read the four faint words, the last twelve hours flashed before his e es. &avid !ecker found himself back in the Alfonso [III hotel room. The obese 6erman was touching his own forearm and speaking broken EnglishC $ock off und die. '4ou oka )+ the girl asked, e eing the dazed !ecker. !ecker did not look up from her arm. .e was dizz . The four words smeared across the girl/s flesh carried a ver simple messageC
$D1G #$$ A7& &IE.

The blonde looked down at it, embarrassed. 'This friend of mine wrote it5 prett stupid, huh)+ !ecker couldn/t speak. Fo & off und die. .e couldn/t believe it. The 6erman hadn/t been insulting him, he/d been tr ing to help. !ecker lifted his gaze to the girl/s face. In the fluorescent light of the concourse, he could see faint traces of red and blue in the girl/s blond hair. '4% ou5+ !ecker stammered, staring at her unpierced ears. '4ou wouldn/t happen to wear earrings, would ou)+ The girl e ed him strangel . -he fished a tin ob0ect from her pocket and held it out. !ecker gazed at the skull pendant dangling in her hand. 'A clip%on)+ he stammered. '.ell, es,+ the girl replied. 'I/m scared shitless of needles.+

Chapter 70
&avid !ecker stood in the deserted concourse and felt his legs go weak. .e e ed the girl before him and knew his search was over. -he had washed her hair and changed clothes"ma be in hopes of having better luck selling the ring"but she/d never boarded for 7ew 4ork. !ecker fought to keep his cool. .is wild 0ourne was about to end. .e scanned her fingers. The were bare. .e gazed down at her duffel. 8ts in there, he thought. 8ts got to be4 .e smiled, barel containing his e3citement. 'This is going to sound craz ,+ he said, 'but I think ou/ve got something I need.+ '#h)+ *egan seemed suddenl uncertain. !ecker reached for his wallet. '#f course I/d be happ to pa ou.+ .e looked down and started sorting through the cash in his billfold.

As *egan watched him count out his mone , she drew a startled gasp, apparentl misunderstanding his intentions. -he shot a frightened glance toward the revolving door5 measuring the distance. It was fift ards. 'I can give ou enough to bu our ticket home if"+ '&on/t sa it,+ *egan blurted, offering a forced smile. 'I think I know e3actl what ou need.+ -he bent down and started rifling through her duffel. !ecker felt a surge of hope. Shes got it4 he told himself. Shes got the ring4 .e didn/t know how the hell she knew what it was he wanted, but he was too tired to care. Ever muscle in his bod rela3ed. .e pictured himself handing the ring to the beaming deput director of the 7-A. Then he and -usan would lie in the big canop bed at -tone *anor and make up for lost time. The girl finall found what she was looking for"her Pepper6uard"the environmentall safe alternative to mace, made from a potent blend of ca enne and chili peppers. In one swift motion, she swung around and fired a direct stream into !ecker/s e es. -he grabbed her duffel and dashed for the door. (hen she looked back, &avid !ecker was on the floor, holding his face, writhing in agon .

Chapter 71
Tokugen 7umataka lit his fourth cigar and kept pacing. .e snatched up his phone and buzzed the main switchboard. 'An word et on that phone number)+ he demanded before the operator could speak. '7othing et, sir. It/s taking a bit longer than e3pected"it came from a cellular.+ A e!!u!ar, 7umataka mused. Figures. $ortunatel for the ?apanese econom , the Americans had an insatiable appetite for electronic gadgets. 'The boosting station,+ the operator added, 'is in the =9= area code. !ut we have no number et.+ '=9=) (here/s that)+ (here in the vast American e3panse is this m sterious 7orth &akota hiding) '-omewhere near (ashington, &. 1., sir.+ 7umataka arched his e ebrows. '1all me as soon as ou have a number.+

Chapter 72
-usan $letcher stumbled across the darkened 1r pto floor toward -trathmore/s catwalk. The commander/s office was as far from .ale as -usan could get inside the locked comple3. (hen -usan reached the top of the catwalk stairs, she found the commander/s door hanging loosel , the electronic lock rendered ineffective b the power outage. -he barged in. '1ommander)+ The onl light inside was the glow of -trathmore/s computer monitors. '1ommander2+ she called once again. 59ommander47 -usan suddenl remembered that the commander was in the - s%-ec lab. -he turned circles in his empt office, the panic of her ordeal with .ale still in her blood. -he had to get out of 1r pto. &igital $ortress or no &igital $ortress, it was time to act"time to abort the T<A7-,T< run and escape. -he e ed -trathmore/s glowing monitors then dashed to his desk. -he fumbled with his ke pad. Abort T>A#S3T>4 The task was simple now that she was on an authorized terminal. -usan called up the proper command window and t pedC
A!#<T <D7

.er finger hovered momentaril over the E7TE< ke .

'-usan2+ a voice barked from the doorwa . -usanwheeled scared, fearing it was .ale. !ut it was not, it was -trathmore. .e stood, pale and eerie in the electronic glow, his chest heaving. '(hat the hell/s going on2+ '1om5 mander2+ -usan gasped. '.ale/s in 7ode F2 .e 0ust attacked me2+ '(hat) Impossible2 .ale/s locked down in"+ '7o, he/s not2 .e/s loose2 (e need securit inhere now2 I/m aborting T<A7-,T<2+ -usan reached for the ke pad. '&#7/T T#D1. T.AT2+ -trathmore lunged for the terminal and pulled -usan/s hands awa . -usan recoiled, stunned. -he stared at the commander and for the second time that da did not recognize him. -usan felt suddenl alone. *** -trathmore saw the blood on -usan/s shirt and immediatel regretted his outburst. '?esus, -usan. Are ou oka )+ -he didn/t respond. .e wished he hadn/t 0umped on her unnecessaril . .is nerves were fra ed. .e was 0uggling too much. There were things on his mind"things -usan $letcher did not know about"things he had not told her and pra ed he/d never have to. 'I/m sorr ,+ he said softl . 'Tell me what happened.+ -he turned awa . 'It doesn/t matter. The blood/s not mine. ?ust get me out of here.+ 'Are ou hurt)+ -trathmore put a hand on her shoulder. -usan recoiled. .e dropped his hand and looked awa . (hen he looked back at -usan/s face, she seemed to be staring over his shoulder at something on the wall. There, in the darkness, a small ke pad glowed full force. -trathmore followed her gaze and frowned. .e/d hoped -usan wouldn/t notice the glowing control panel. The illuminated ke pad controlled his private elevator. -trathmore and his high%powered guests used it to come and go from 1r pto without advertising the fact to the rest of the staff. The personal lift dropped down fift feet below the 1r pto dome and then moved laterall @9K ards through a reinforced underground tunnel to the sublevels of the main 7-A comple3. The elevator connecting 1r pto to the 7-A was powered from the main comple3; it was on%line despite 1r pto/s power outage. -trathmore had known all along it was on%line, but even as -usan had been pounding on the main e3it downstairs, he hadn/t mentioned it. .e could not afford to let -usan out"not et. .e wondered how much he/d have to tell her to make her want to sta . -usan pushed past -trathmore and raced to the back wall. -he 0abbed furiousl at the illuminated buttons. 'Please,+ she begged. !ut the door did not open. '-usan,+ -trathmore said ;uietl . 'The lift takes a password.+ 'A password)+ she repeated angril . -he glared at the controls. !elow the main ke pad was a second ke pad"a smaller one, with tin buttons. Each button was marked with a letter of the alphabet. -usan wheeled to him. '(hat is the password2+ she demanded. -trathmore thought a moment and sighed heavil . '-usan, have a seat.+ -usan looked as if she could hardl believe her ears. '.ave a seat,+ the commander repeated, his voice firm. ',et me out2+ -usan shot an uneas glance toward the commander/s open office door. -trathmore e ed the panicked -usan $letcher. 1alml he moved to his office door. .e stepped out onto the landing and peered into the darkness. .ale was nowhere to be seen. The commander stepped back inside and pulled the door shut. Then he propped a chair in front to keep it closed, went to his desk, and removed something from a drawer. In the pale glow of the monitors -usan saw what he was holding. .er face went pale. It was a gun.

-trathmore pulled two chairs into the middle of the room. .e rotated them to face the closed office door. Then he sat. .e lifted the glittering !eretta semi%automatic and aimed steadil at the slightl open door. After a moment he laid the gun back in his lap. .e spoke solemnl . '-usan, we/re safe here. (e need to talk. If 6reg .ale comes through that door5+ .e let it hang. -usan was speechless. -trathmore gazed at her in the dim light of his office. .e patted the seat beside him. '-usan, sit. I have something to tell ou.+ -he did not move. '(hen I/m done, 'he said, 'I/ll give ou the password to the elevator. 4ou can decide whether to leave or not.+ There was a long silence. In a daze, -usan moved across the office and sat ne3t to -trathmore. '-usan,+ he began, 'I haven/t been entirel honest with ou.+

Chapter 73
&avid !ecker felt as if his face had been doused in turpentine and ignited. .e rolled over on the floor and s;uinted through blear tunnel vision at the girl halfwa to the revolving doors. -he was running in short, terrified bursts, dragging her duffel behind her across the tile. !ecker tried to pull himself to his feet, but he could not. .e was blinded b red%hot fire. She ant get a$ay4 .e tried to call out, but there was no air in his lungs, onl a sickening pain. '7o2+ .e coughed. The sound barel left his lips. !ecker knew the second she went through the door, she would disappear forever. .e tried to call out again, but his throat was searing. The girl had almost reached the revolving door. !ecker staggered to his feet, gasping for breath. .e stumbled after her. The girl dashed into the first compartment of the revolving door, dragging her duffel behind her. Twent ards back, !ecker was staggering blindl toward the door. '(ait2+ .e gasped. 5(ait47 The girl pushed furiousl on the inside of the door. The door began to rotate, but then it 0ammed. The blonde wheeled in terror and saw her duffel snagged in the opening. -he knelt and pulled furiousl to free it. !ecker fi3ed his blear vision on the fabric protruding through the door. As he dove, the red corner of n lon protruding from the crack was all he could see. .e flew toward it, arms outstretched. As &avid !ecker fell toward the door, his hands onl inches awa , the fabric slipped into the crack and disappeared. .is fingers clutched empt air as the door lurched into motion. The girl and the duffel tumbled into the street outside. '*egan2+ !ecker wailed as hit the floor. (hite%hot needles shot through the back of his e e sockets. .is vision tunneled to nothing, and a new wave of nausea rolled in. .is own voice echoed in the blackness. Megan4 *** &avid !ecker wasn/t sure how long he/d been l ing there before he became aware of the hum of fluorescent bulbs overhead. Ever thing else was still. Through the silence came a voice. -omeone was calling. .e tried to lift his head off the floor. The world was cocke ed, water . Again the .oi e. .e s;uinted down the concourse and saw a figure twent ards awa . '*ister)+ !ecker recognized the voice. It was the girl. -he was standing at another entrance farther down the concourse, clutching her duffel to her chest. -he looked more frightened now than she had before. '*ister)+ she asked, her voice trembling. 'I never told ou m name. .ow come ou know m name)+

Chapter 74
&irector ,eland $ontaine was a mountain of a man, si3t %three ears old, with a close%cropped militar haircut and a rigid demeanor. .is 0et%black e es were like coal when he was irritated, which was almost alwa s. .e/d risen through the ranks of the 7-A through hard work, good planning, and the well%earned respect of his predecessors. .e was the first African American director of the 7ational -ecurit Agenc , but nobod ever mentioned the distinction; $ontaine/s politics were decidedl color%blind, and his staff wisel followed suit. $ontaine had kept *idge and !rinkerhoff standing as he went through the silent ritual of making himself a mug of 6uatemalan 0ava. Then he/d settled at his desk, left them standing, and ;uestioned them like schoolchildren in the principal/s office. *idge did the talking"e3plaining the unusual series of events that led them to violate the sanctit of $ontaine/s office. 'A virus)+ the director asked coldl . '4ou two think we/ve got a virus)+ !rinkerhoff winced. '4es, sir,+ *idge snapped. '!ecause -trathmore b passed 6auntlet)+ $ontaine e ed the printout in front of him. '4es,+ she said. 'And there/s a file that hasn/t broken in over twent hours2+ $ontaine frowned. '#r so our data sa s.+ *idge was about to protest, but she held her tongue. Instead she went for the throat. 'There/s a blackout in 1r pto.+ $ontaine looked up, apparentl surprised. *idge confirmed with a curt nod. 'All power/s down. ?abba thought ma be"+ '4ou called ?abba)+ '4es, sir, I"+ '?abba)+ $ontaine stood up, furious. '(h the hell didn/t ou call -trathmore)+ '(e did2+ *idge defended. '.e said ever thing was fine.+ $ontaine stood, his chest heaving. 'Then we have no reason to doubt him.+ There was closure in his voice. .e took a sip of coffee. '7ow if ou/ll e3cuse me, I have work to do.+ *idge/s 0aw dropped. 'I beg our pardon)+ !rinkerhoff was alread headed for the door, but *idge was cemented in place. 'I said good night, *s. *ilken,+ $ontaine repeated. '4ou are e3cused.+ '!ut"but sir,+ she stammered, 'I5 I have to protest. I think"+ 5%ou protest)+ the director demanded. .e set down his coffee. 58 protest2 I protest to our presence in m office. I protest to our insinuations that the deput director of this agenc is l ing. I protest"+ '(e have a virus, sir2 * instincts tell me"+ '(ell, our instincts are wrong, *s. *ilken2 $or once, the /re wrong2+ *idge stood fast. '!ut, sir2 1ommander -trathmore b passed 6auntlet2+ $ontaine strode toward her, barel controlling his anger. 'That is his prerogative2 I pa ou to watch anal sts and service emplo ees"not sp on the deput director2 If it weren/t for him we/d still be breaking codes with pencil and paper2 7ow leave me2+ .e turned to !rinkerhoff, who stood in the doorwa colorless and trembling. '!oth of ou.+ '(ith all due respect, sir,+ *idge said. 'I/d like to recommend we send a - s%-ec team to 1r pto 0ust to ensure"+ '(e will do no such thing2+ After a tense beat, *idge nodded. ':er well. 6oodnight.+ -he turned and left. As she passed, !rinkerhoff could see in her e es that she had no intention of letting this rest"not until her intuition was satisfied. !rinkerhoff gazed across the room at his boss, massive and seething behind his desk. This was not the director he knew. The director he knew was a stickler for detail, for neatl tied

packages. .e alwa s encouraged his staff to e3amine and clarif an inconsistencies in dail procedure, no matter how minute. And et here he was, asking them to turn their backs on a ver bizarre series of coincidences. The director was obviousl hiding something, but !rinkerhoff was paid to assist, not to ;uestion. $ontaine had proven over and over that he had ever one/s best interests at heart; if assisting him now meant turning a blind e e, then so be it. Dnfortunatel , *idge was paid to ;uestion, and !rinkerhoff feared she was headed for 1r pto to do 0ust that. Time to get out the rDsumDs, !rinkerhoff thought as he turned to the door. '1had2+ $ontaine barked, from behind him. $ontaine had seen the look in *idge/s e es when she left. '&on/t let her out of this suite.+ !rinkerhoff nodded and hustled after *idge. *** $ontaine sighed and put his head in his hands. .is sable e es were heav . It had been a long, une3pected trip home. The past month had been one of great anticipation for ,eland $ontaine. There were things happening right now at the 7-A that would change histor , and ironicall , &irector $ontaine had found out about them onl b chance. Three months ago, $ontaine had gotten news that 1ommander -trathmore/s wife was leaving him. .e/d also heard reports that -trathmore was working absurd hours and seemed about to crack under the pressure. &espite differences of opinion with -trathmore on man issues, $ontaine had alwa s held his deput director in the highest esteem; -trathmore was a brilliant man, ma be the best the 7-A had. At the same time, ever since the -kip0ack fiasco, -trathmore had been under tremendous stress. It made $ontaine uneas ; the commander held a lot of ke s around the 7-A"and $ontaine had an agenc to protect. $ontaine needed someone to keep tabs on the wavering -trathmore and make sure he was @99 percent"but it was not that simple. -trathmore was a proud and powerful man; $ontaine needed a wa to check up on the commander without undermining his confidence or authorit . $ontaine decided, out of respect for -trathmore, to do the 0ob himself. .e had an invisible tap installed on 1ommander -trathmore/s 1r pto account"his E%mail, his interoffice correspondence, his brainstorms, all of it. If -trathmore was going to crack, the director would see warning signs in his work. !ut instead of signs of a breakdown, $ontaine uncovered the ground work for one of the most incredible intelligence schemes he/d ever encountered. It was no wonder -trathmore was busting his ass; if he could pull this plan off, it would make up for the -kip0ack fiasco a hundred times over. $ontaine had concluded -trathmore was fine, working at @@9 percent"as sl , smart, and patriotic as ever. The best thing the director could do would be to stand clear and watch the commander work his magic. -trathmore had devised a plan5 a plan $ontaine had no intention of interrupting.

Chapter 75
-trathmore fingered the !erretta in his lap. Even with the rage boiling in his blood, he was programmed to think clearl . The fact that 6reg .ale had dared la a finger on -usan $letcher sickened him, but the fact that it was his own fault made him even sicker; -usan going into 7ode F had been his idea. -trathmore knew enough to compartmentalize his emotion"it could in no wa affect his handling of &igital $ortress. .e was the deput director of the 7ational -ecurit Agenc . And toda his 0ob was more critical than it had ever been. -trathmore slowed his breathing. '-usan.+ .is voice was efficient and unclouded. '&id ou delete .ale/s E%mail)+ '7o,+ she said, confused.

'&o ou have the pass%ke )+ -he shook her head. -trathmore frowned, chewing his lip. .is mind was racing. .e had a dilemma. .e could easil enter his elevator password, and -usan would be gone. !ut he needed her there. .e needed her help to find .ale/s pass%ke . -trathmore hadn/t told her et, but finding that pass%ke was far more than a matter of academic interest"it was an absolute necessit . -trathmore suspected he could run -usan/s nonconformit search and find the pass%ke himself, but he/d alread encountered problems running her tracer. .e was not about to risk it again. '-usan.+ .e sighed resolutel . 'I/d like ou to help me find .ale/s pass%ke .+ '(hat2+ -usan stood up, her e es wild. -trathmore fought off the urge to stand along with her. .e knew a lot about negotiating"the position of power was alwa s seated. .e hoped she would follow suit. -he did not. '-usan, sit down.+ -he ignored him. '-it down.+ It was an order. -usan remained standing. '1ommander, if ou/ve still got some burning desire to check out Tankado/s algorithm, ou can do it alone. I want out.+ -trathmore hung his head and took a deep breath. It was clear she would need an e3planation. She deser.es one, he thought. -trathmore made his decision"-usan $letcher would hear it all. .e pra ed he wasn/t making a mistake. '-usan,+ he began, 'it wasn/t supposed to come to this.+ .e ran his hand across his scalp. 'There are some things I haven/t told ou. -ometimes a man in m position5+ The commander wavered as if making a painful confession. '-ometimes a man in m position is forced to lie to the people he loves. Toda was one of those da s.+ .e e ed her sadl . '(hat I/m about to tell ou, I never planned to have to sa 5 to ou5 or to an one.+ -usan felt a chill. The commander had a deadl serious look on his face. There was obviousl some aspect of his agenda to which she was not priv . -usan sat down. There was a long pause as -trathmore stared at the ceiling, gathering his thoughts. '-usan,+ he finall said, his voice frail. 'I have no famil .+ .e returned his gaze to her. 'I have no marriage to speak of. * life has been m love for this countr . * life has been m work here at the 7-A.+ -usan listened in silence. 'As ou ma have guessed,+ he continued, 'I planned to retire soon. !ut I wanted to retire with pride. I wanted to retire knowing that I/d trul made a difference.+ '!ut ou ha.e made a difference,+ -usan heard herself sa . '4ou built T<A7-,T<.+ -trathmore didn/t seem to hear. '#ver the past few ears, our work here at the 7-A has gotten harder and harder. (e/ve faced enemies I never imagined would challenge us. I/m talking about our own citizens. The law ers, the civil rights fanatics, the E$$"the /ve all pla ed a part, but it/s more than that. It/s the peop!e. The /ve lost faith. The /ve become paranoid. The suddenl see us as the enem . People like ou and me, people who trul have the nation/s best interests at heart, we find ourselves having to fight for our right to serve our countr . (e/re no longer peacekeepers. (e/re eavesdroppers, peeping Toms, violators of people/s rights.+ -trathmore heaved a sigh. 'Dnfortunatel , there are naive people in the world, people who can/t imagine the horrors the /d face if we didn/t intervene. I trul believe it/s up to us to save them from their own ignorance.+ -usan waited for his point. The commander stared wearil at the floor and then looked up. '-usan, hear me out,+ he said, smiling tenderl at her. '4ou/ll want to stop me, but hear me out. I/ve been decr pting Tankado/s E%mail for about two months now. As ou can imagine, I was shocked when I first read his messages to 7orth &akota about an unbreakable algorithm called &igital $ortress. I didn/t believe it was possible. !ut ever time I intercepted anew message, Tankado sounded more and more convincing. (hen I read that he/d used mutation strings to write a rotating ke %code, I realized he was light% ears ahead of us; it was an approach no one here had never tried.+ '(h $ou!d we)+ -usan asked. 'It barel makes sense.+

-trathmore stood up and started pacing, keeping one e e on the door. 'A few weeks ago, when I heard about the &igital $ortress auction, I finall accepted the fact that Tankado was serious. I knew if he sold his algorithm to a ?apanese software compan , we were sunk, so I tried to think of an wa I could stop him. I considered having him killed, but with all the publicit surrounding the algorithm and all his recent claims about T<A7-,T<, we would be prime suspects. That/s when it dawned on me.+ .e turned to -usan. 'I realized that &igital $ortress should not be stopped.+ -usan stared at him, apparentl lost. -trathmore went on. 'I suddenl saw &igital $ortress as the opportunit of a lifetime. It hit me that with a few changes, &igital $ortress could work for us instead of against us.+ -usan had never heard an thing so absurd. &igital $ortress was an unbreakable algorithm; it would destro them. 'If,+ -trathmore continued, 'if I could 0ust make a small modification in the algorithm5 before it was released5+ .e gave her a cunning glint of the e e. It took onl an instant. -trathmore saw the amazement register in -usan/s e es. .e e3citedl e3plained his plan. 'If I could get the pass%ke , I could unlock our cop of &igital $ortress and insert a modification.+ 'A back door,+ -usan said, forgetting the 1ommander had ever lied to her. -he felt a surge of anticipation. '?ust like -kip0ack.+ -trathmore nodded. 'Then we could replace Tankado/s give%awa file on the Internet with our a!tered version. !ecause &igital $ortress is a ?apanese algorithm, no one will ever suspect the 7-A had an part in it. All we have to do is make the switch.+ -usan realized the plan was be ond ingenious. It was pure5 -trathmore. .e planned to facilitate the release of an algorithm the 7-A could break2 '$ull access,+ -trathmore said. '&igital $ortress will become the encr ption standard overnight.+ '#vernight)+ -usan said. '.ow do ou figure that6 Even if &igital $ortress becomes available ever where for free, most computer users will stick with their old algorithms for convenience. (h would the switch to &igital $ortress)+ -trathmore smiled. '-imple. (e have a securit leak. The whole world finds out about T<A7-,T<.+ -usan/s 0aw dropped. 'Buite simpl , -usan, we let the truth hit the street. (e tell the world that the 7-A has a computer that can break ever algorithm e3cept &igital $ortress.+ -usan was amazed. '-o ever one 0umps ship to &igital $ortress5 not knowing we can break it2+ -trathmore nodded. 'E3actl .+ There was a long silence. 'I/m sorr I lied to ou. Tr ing to rewrite &igital $ortress is a prett big pla , I didn/t want ou involved.+ 'I5 understand,+ she replied slowl , still reeling from the brilliance of it all. '4ou/re not a bad liar.+ -trathmore chuckled. '4ears of practice. , ing was the onl wa to keep ou out of the loop.+ -usan nodded. 'And how big a loop is it)+ '4ou/re looking at it.+ -usan smiled for the first time in an hour. 'I was afraid ou/d sa that.+ .e shrugged. '#nce &igital $ortress is in place, I/ll brief the director.+ -usan was impressed. -trathmore/s plan was a global intelligence coup the magnitude of which had never before been imagined. And he/d attempted it single%handedl . It looked like he might pull it off too. The pass%ke was downstairs. Tankado was dead. Tankado/s partner had been located. -usan paused. Tan&ado is dead. That seemed ver convenient. -he thought of all the lies that -trathmore had told her and felt a sudden chill. -he looked uneasil at the commander. '&id ou kill Ensei Tankado)+

-trathmore looked surprised. .e shook his head. '#f course not. There was no need to kill Tankado. In fact, I/d prefer he were alive. .is death could cast suspicion on &igital $ortress. I wanted this switch to go as smoothl and inconspicuousl as possible. The original plan was to make the switch and let Tankado sell his ke .+ -usan had to admit it made sense. Tankado would have no reason to suspect the algorithm on the Internet was not the original. 7obod had access to it e3cept himself and 7orth &akota. Dnless Tankado went back and studied the programming after it was released, he/d never know about the back door. .e/d slaved over &igital $ortress for long enough that he/d probabl never want to see the programming again. -usan let it all soak in. -he suddenl understood the commander/s need for privac in 1r pto. The task at hand was time%consuming and delicate"writing a concealed back door in a comple3 algorithm and making an undetected Internet switch. 1oncealment was of paramount importance. The simple suggestion that &igital $ortress was tainted could ruin the commander/s plan. #nl now did she full grasp wh he had decided to let T<A7-,T< keep running. If &igital $ortress is going to be the 7-A/s new bab , -trathmore wanted to be sure it was unbreakable2 '-till want out)+ he asked. -usan looked up. -omehow sitting there in the dark with the great Trevor -trathmore, her fears were swept awa . <ewriting &igital $ortress was a chance to make histor "a chance to do incredible good"and -trathmore could use her help. -usan forced a reluctant smile. '(hat/s our ne3t move)+ -trathmore beamed. .e reached over and put a hand on her shoulder. 'Thanks.+ .e smiled and then got down to business. '(e/ll go downstairs together.+ .e held up his !erretta. '4ou/ll search .ale/s terminal. I/ll cover ou.+ -usan bristled at the thought of going downstairs. '1an/t we wait for &avid to call with Tankado/s cop )+ -trathmore shook his head. 'The sooner we make the switch, the better. (e have no guarantees that &avid will even find the other cop . If b some fluke the ring falls into the wrong hands over there, I/d prefer we/d alread made the algorithm switch. That wa , whoever ends up with the ke will download our version of the algorithm.+ -trathmore fingered his gun and stood. '(e need to go for .ale/s ke .+ -usan fell silent. The commander had a point. The needed .ale/s pass%ke . And the needed it now. (hen -usan stood, her legs were 0itter . -he wished she/d hit .ale harder. -he e ed -trathmore/s weapon and suddenl felt ;ueas . '4ou/d actuall shoot 6reg .ale)+ '7o.+ -trathmore frowned, striding to the door. '!ut let/s hope he doesn/t know that.+

Chapter 76
#utside the -eville airport terminal, a ta3i sat idle, the meter running. The passenger in the wire%rim glasses gazed through the plate%glass windows of the well%lit terminal. .e knew he/d arrived in time. .e could see a blond girl. -he was helping &avid !ecker to a chair. !ecker was apparentl in pain. <e does not yet &no$ pain, the passenger thought. The girl pulled a small ob0ect from her pocket and held it out. !ecker held it up and studied it in the light. Then he slipped it on his finger. .e pulled a stack of bills from his pocket and paid the girl. The talked a few minutes longer, and then the girl hugged him. -he waved, shouldered her duffel, and headed off across the concourse. At !ast, the man in the ta3i thought. At !ast.

Chapter 77
-trathmore stepped out of his office onto the landing with his gun leveled. -usan trailed close behind, wondering if .ale was still in 7ode F.

The light from -trathmore/s monitor behind them threw eerie shadows of their bodies out across the grated platform. -usan inched closer to the commander. As the moved awa from the door, the light faded, and the were plunged into darkness. The onl light on the 1r pto floor came from the stars above and the faint haze from behind the shattered 7ode F window. -trathmore inched forward, looking for the place where the narrow staircase began. -witching the !erretta to his left hand, he groped for the banister with his right. .e figured he was probabl 0ust as bad a shot with his left, and he needed his right for support. $alling down this particular set of stairs could cripple someone for life, and -trathmore/s dreams for his retirement did not involve a wheelchair. -usan, blinded b the blackness of the 1r pto dome, descended with a hand on -trathmore/s shoulder. Even at the distance of two feet, she could not see the commander/s outline. As she stepped onto each metal tread, she shuffled her toes forward looking for the edge. -usan began having second thoughts about risking a visit to 7ode F to get .ale/s pass%ke . The commander insisted .ale wouldn/t have the guts to touch them, but -usan wasn/t so sure. .ale was desperate. .e had two optionsC Escape 1r pto or go to 0ail. A voice kept telling -usan the should wait for &avid/s call and use his pass%ke , but she knew there was no guarantee he would even find it. -he wondered what was taking &avid so long. -usan swallowed her apprehension and kept going. -trathmore descended silentl . There was no need to alert .ale the were coming. As the neared the bottom, -trathmore slowed, feeling for the final step. (hen he found it, the heel of his loafer clicked on hard black tile. -usan felt his shoulder tense. The /d entered the danger zone. .ale could be an where. In the distance, now hidden behind T<A7-,T<, was their destination"7ode F. -usan pra ed .ale was still there, l ing on the floor, whimpering in pain like the dog he was. -trathmore let go of the railing and switched the gun back to his right hand. (ithout a word, he moved out into the darkness. -usan held tight to his shoulder. If she lost him, the onl wa she/d find him again was to speak. .ale might hear them. As the moved awa from the safet of the stairs, -usan recalled late%night games of tag as a kid"she/d left home base, she was in the open. -he was vulnerable. T<A7-,T< was the onl island in the vast black sea. Ever few steps -trathmore stopped, gun poised, and listened. The onl sound was the faint hum from below. -usan wanted to pull him back, back to safet , back to home base. There seemed to be faces in the dark all around her. .alfwa to T<A7-,T<, the silence of 1r pto was broken. -omewhere in the darkness, seemingl right on top of them, a high%pitched beeping pierced the night. -trathmore spun, and -usan lost him. $earful, -usan shot her arm out, groping for him. !ut the commander was gone. The space where his shoulder had been was now 0ust empt air. -he staggered forward into the emptiness. The beeping noise continued. It was nearb . -usan wheeled in the darkness. There was a rustle of clothing, and suddenl the beeping stopped. -usan froze. An instant later, as if from one of her worst childhood nightmares, a vision appeared. A face materialized directl in front of her. It was ghostl and green. It was the face of a demon, sharp shadows 0utting upward across deformed features. -he 0umped back. -he turned to run, but it grabbed her arm. '&on/t move2+ it commanded. $or an instant, she thought she saw .ale in those two burning e es. !ut the voice was not .ale/s. And the touch was too soft. It was -trathmore. .e was lit from beneath b a glowing ob0ect that he/d 0ust pulled from his pocket. .er bod sagged with relief. -he felt herself start breathing again. The ob0ect in -trathmore/s hand had some sort of electronic ,E& that was giving off a greenish glow. '&amn,+ -trathmore cursed under his breath. '* new pager.+ .e stared in disgust at the -k Pager in his palm. .e/d forgotten to engage the silent%ring feature. Ironicall , he/d gone to a local electronics store to bu the device. .e/d paid cash to keep it anon mous; nobod knew better

than -trathmore how closel the 7-A watched their own"and the digital messages sent and received from this pager were something -trathmore definitel needed to keep private. -usan looked around uneasil . If .ale hadn/t known the were coming, he knew now. -trathmore pressed a few buttons and read the incoming message. .e groaned ;uietl . It was more bad news from -pain"not from &avid !ecker, but from the other part -trathmore had sent to -eville. *** Three thousand miles awa , a mobile surveillance van sped along the darkened -eville streets. It had been commissioned b the 7-A under 'Dmbra+ secrec from a militar base in <ota. The two men inside were tense. It was not the first time the /d received emergenc orders from $ort *eade, but the orders didn/t usuall come from so high up. The agent at the wheel called over his shoulder. 'An sign of our man)+ The e es of his partner never left the feed from the wide%angle video monitor on the roof. '7o. Geep driving.+

Chapter 78
Dnderneath the twisting mass of cables, ?abba was sweating. .e was still on his back with a penlight clenched in his teeth. .e/d gotten used to working late on weekends; the less hectic 7-A hours were often the onl times he could perform hardware maintenance. As he maneuvered the red%hot soldering iron through the maze of wires above him, he moved with e3ceptional care; singeing an of the dangling sheathes would be disaster. "ust another fe$ in hes, he thought. The 0ob was taking far longer than he/d imagined. ?ust as he brought the tip of the iron against the final thread of raw solder, his cellular phone rang sharpl . ?abba startled, his arm twitched, and a large glob of sizzling, li;uefied lead fell on his arm. 5Shit47 .e dropped the iron and practicall swallowed his penlight. '-hit2 -hit2 -hit2+ .e scrubbed furiousl at the drop of cooling solder. It rolled off, leaving an impressive welt. The chip he was tr ing to solder in place fell out and hit him in the head. '6oddamn it2+ ?abba/s phone summoned him again. .e ignored it. '*idge,+ he cursed under his breath. Damn you4 9ryptos fine4 The phone rang on. ?abba went back to work reseating the new chip. A minute later the chip was in place, but his phone was still ringing. For 9hrists sa&e, Midge4 'i.e it up4 The phone rang another fifteen seconds and finall stopped. ?abba breathed a sigh of relief. -i3t seconds later the intercom overhead crackled. '(ould the chief - s%-ec please contact the main switchboard for a message.+ ?abba rolled his e es in disbelief. She ?ust doesnt gi.e up, does she6 .e ignored the page.

Chapter 79
-trathmore replaced his -k pager in his pocket and peered through the darkness toward 7ode F. .e reached for -usan/s hand. '1ome on.+ !ut their fingers never touched. There was a long guttural cr from out of the darkness. A thundering figure loomed"a *ack truck bearing down with no headlights. An instant later, there was a collision and -trathmore was skidding across the floor. It was .ale. The pager had given them awa .

-usan heard the !erretta fall. $or a moment she was planted in place, unsure where to run, what to do. .er instincts told her to escape, but she didn/t have the elevator code. .er heart told her to help -trathmore, but how) As she spun in desperation, she e3pected to hear the sounds of a life%and%death struggle on the floor, but there was nothing. Ever thing was suddenl silent"as if .ale had hit the commander and then disappeared back into the night. -usan waited, straining her e es into the darkness, hoping -trathmore wasn/t hurt. After what seemed like an eternit , she whispered, '1ommander)+ Even as she said it, she realized her mistake. An instant later .ale/s odor welled up behind her. -he turned too late. (ithout warning, she was twisting, gasping for air. -he found herself crushed in a familiar headlock, her face against .ale/s chest. '* balls are killing me.+ .ale panted in her ear. -usan/s knees buckled. The stars in the dome began to spin above her.

Chapter 80
.ale clamped down on -usan/s neck and elled into the darkness. '1ommander, I/ve got our sweetheart. I want out2+ .is demands were met with silence. .ale/s grip tightened. 'I/ll break her neck2+ A gun cocked directl behind them. -trathmore/s voice was calm and even. ',et her go.+ -usan winced in pain. '1ommander2+ .ale spun -usan/s bod toward the sound. '4ou shoot and ou/ll hit our precious -usan. 4ou read to take that chance)+ -trathmore/s voice moved closer. ',et her go.+ '7o wa . 4ou/ll kill me.+ 'I/m not going to kill an one.+ '#h, eah) Tell that to 1hartrukian2+ -trathmore moved closer. '1hartrukian/s dead.+ '7o shit. 4ou killed him. I saw it2+ '6ive it up, 6reg,+ -trathmore said calml . .ale clutched at -usan and whispered in her ear, '-trathmore pushed 1hartrukian"I swear it2+ '-he/s not going to fall for our divide%and%con;uer techni;ue,+ -trathmore said, moving closer. ',et her go.+ .ale hissed into the darkness, '1hartrukian was 0ust a &id, for 1hrist/s sake2 (h /d ou do it) To protect our little secret)+ -trathmore sta ed cool. 'And what little secret is that)+ '4ou know damn%fucking%well what secret that is2 &igital $ortress2+ '* , m ,+ -trathmore muttered condescendingl , his voice like an iceberg. '-o ou do know about &igital $ortress. I was starting to think ou/d den that too.+ '$uck ou.+ 'A witt defense.+ '4ou/re a fool,+ .ale spat. '$or our information, T<A7-,T< is overheating.+ '<eall )+ -trathmore chuckled. ',et me guess"I should open the doors and call in the - s%-ecs)+ 'E3actl ,+ .ale fired back. '4ou/d be an idiot not to.+ This time -trathmore laughed out loud. 'That/s our big pla ) T<A7-,T</s overheating, so open the doors and let us out)+ 'It/s true, dammit2 I/ve been down to the sublevels2 The au3 power isn/t pulling enough freon2+ 'Thanks for the tip,+ -trathmore said. '!ut T<A7-,T</s got automatic shutdown; if it/s overheating, &igital $ortress will ;uit all b itself.+

.ale sneered. '4ou/re insane. (hat the fuck do I care if T<A7-,T< blows) The damn machine should be outlawed an wa .+ -trathmore sighed. '1hild ps cholog onl works on children, 6reg. ,et her go.+ '-o ou can shoot me)+ 'I won/t shoot ou. I 0ust want the pass%ke .+ '(hat pass%ke )+ -trathmore sighed again. 'The one Tankado sent ou.+ 'I have no idea what ou/re talking about.+ ',iar2+ -usan managed. 'I saw Tankado/s mail in our account2+ .ale went rigid. .e spun -usan around. '4ou went in m account)+ 'And you aborted m tracer,+ she snapped. .ale felt his blood pressure sk rocket. .e thought he/d covered his tracks; he had no idea -usan knew what he/d done. It was no wonder she wasn/t bu ing a word he said. .ale felt the walls start to close in. .e knew he could never talk his wa out of that one"not in time. .e whispered to her in desperation, '-usan5 -trathmore killed 1hartrukian2+ ',et her go,+ the commander said evenl . '-he doesn/t believe ou.+ '(h shou!d she)+ .ale fired back. '4ou l ing bastard2 4ou/ve got her brainwashed2 4ou onl tell her what suits our needs2 &oes she know what ou rea!!y plan to do with &igital $ortress)+ 'And what/s that)+ -trathmore taunted. .ale knew what he was about to sa would either be his ticket to freedom or his death warrant. .e took a deep breath and went for broke. '4ou plan to write a back door in &igital $ortress.+ The words met with a bewildered silence from the darkness. .ale knew he had hit a bull/s%e e. Apparentl -trathmore/s unflappable cool was being put to the test. '(ho told ou that)+ he demanded, his voice rough around the edges. 'I read it,+ .ale said smugl , tr ing to capitalize on the change of momentum. 'In one of our brainstorms.+ 'Impossible. I ne.er print m brainstorms.+ 'I know. I read it directl off our account.+ -trathmore seemed doubtful. '4ou got into m office)+ '7o. I snooped ou from 7ode F.+ .ale forced a self%assured chuckle. .e knew he/d need all the negotiating skills he/d learned in the marines to get out of 1r pto alive. -trathmore edged closer, the !erretta leveled in the darkness. '.ow do ou know about m back door)+ 'I told ou, I snooped our account.+ 'Impossible.+ .ale forced a cock sneer. '#ne of the problems of hiring the best, 1ommander"sometimes the /re better than ou.+ '4oung man,+ -trathmore seethed, 'I don/t know where ou get our information, but ou/re in wa over our head. 4ou will let *s. $letcher go right now or I/ll call in -ecurit and have ou thrown in 0ail for life.+ '4ou won/t do it,+ .ale stated matter%of%factl . '1alling -ecurit ruins our plans. I/ll tell them ever thing.+ .ale paused. '!ut let me out clean, and I/ll never sa a word about &igital $ortress.+ '7o deal,+ -trathmore fired back. 'I want the pass%ke .+ 'I don/t have an fucking pass%ke 2+ 'Enough lies2+ -trathmore bellowed. '(here is it)+ .ale clamped down on -usan/s neck. ',et me out, or she dies2+

*** Trevor -trathmore had done enough high%stakes bargaining in his life to know that .ale was in a ver dangerous state of mind. The oung cr ptographer had painted himself into a corner, and a cornered opponent was alwa s the most dangerous kind"desperate and unpredictable. -trathmore knew his ne3t move was a critical one. -usan/s life depended on it"and so did the future of &igital $ortress. -trathmore knew the first thing he had to do was release the tension of the situation. After a long moment, he sighed reluctantl . '#ka , 6reg. 4ou win. (hat do ou want me to do)+ -ilence. .ale seemed momentaril unsure how to handle the commander/s cooperative tone. .e let up a bit on -usan/s neck. '(%well5+ he stammered, his voice wavering suddenl . '$irst thing ou do is give me our gun. 4ou/re both coming with me.+ '.ostages)+ -trathmore laughed coldl . '6reg, ou/ll have to do better than that. There are about a dozen armed guards between here and the parking lot.+ 'I/m not a fool,+ .ale snapped. 'I/m taking our elevator. -usan comes with me2 %ou sta 2+ 'I hate to tell ou this,+ -trathmore replied, 'but there/s no power to the elevator.+ '!ullshit2+ .ale snapped. 'The lift runs on power from the main building2 I/ve seen the schematics2+ '(e tried it alread ,+ -usan choked, tr ing to help. 'It/s dead.+ '4ou/re both so full of shit, it/s incredible.+ .ale tightened his grip. 'If the elevator/s dead, I/ll abort T<A7-,T< and restore power.+ 'The elevator takes a password,+ -usan managed feistil . '!ig deal.+ .ale laughed. 'I/m sure the commander will share. (on/t ou, 1ommander)+ '7o chance,+ -trathmore hissed. .ale boiled over. '7ow ou listen to me, old man"here/s the deal2 4ou let -usan and me out through our elevator, we drive a few hours, and then I let her go.+ -trathmore felt the stakes rising. .e/d gotten -usan into this, and he needed to get her out. .is voice sta ed stead as a rock. '(hat about m plans for &igital $ortress)+ .ale laughed. '4ou can write our back door"I won/t sa a word.+ Then his voice turned ominous. '!ut the da I think ou/re tracking me, I go to the press with the whole stor . I tell them &igital $ortress is tainted, and I sink this whole fucking organization2+ -trathmore considered .ale/s offer. It was clean and simple. -usan lived, and &igital $ortress got its back door. As long as -trathmore didn/t chase .ale, the back door sta ed a secret. -trathmore knew .ale couldn/t keep his mouth shut for long. !ut still5 the knowledge of &igital $ortress was .ale/s onl insurance"ma be he/d be smart. (hatever happened, -trathmore knew .ale could be removed later if necessar . '*ake up our mind, old man2+ .ale taunted. 'Are we leaving or not)+ .ale/s arms tightened around -usan like a vice. -trathmore knew that if he picked up the phone right now and called -ecurit , -usan would live. .e/d bet his life on it. .e could see the scenario clearl . The call would take .ale completel b surprise. .e would panic, and in the end, faced with a small arm , .ale would be unable to act. After a brief standoff, he would give in. +ut if 8 a!! Se urity, -trathmore thought, my p!an is ruined. .ale clamped down again. -usan cried out in pain. '(hat/s it gonna be)+ .ale elled. '&o I kill her)+ -trathmore considered his options. If he let .ale take -usan out of 1r pto, there were no guarantees. .ale might drive for a while, park in the woods. .e/d have a gun5. -trathmore/s stomach turned. There was no telling what would happen before .ale set -usan free5 if he set her free. 8.e got to a!! Se urity, -trathmore decided. (hat e!se an 8 do6 .e pictured .ale in court, spilling his guts about &igital $ortress. My p!an $i!! be ruined. There must be some other $ay. '&ecide2+ .ale elled, dragging -usan toward the staircase.

-trathmore wasn/t listening. If saving -usan meant his plans were ruined, then so be it" nothing was worth losing her. -usan $letcher was a price Trevor -trathmore refused to pa . .ale had -usan/s arm twisted behind her back and her neck bent to one side. 'This is our last chance, old man2 6ive me the gun2+ -trathmore/s mind continued to race, searching for another option. There are a!$ays other options4 $inall he spoke";uietl , almost sadl . '7o, 6reg, I/m sorr . I 0ust can/t let ou go.+ .ale choked in apparent shock. '(hat2+ 'I/m calling -ecurit .+ -usan gasped. '1ommander2 7o2+ .ale tightened his grip. '4ou call -ecurit , and she dies2+ -trathmore pulled the cellular off his belt and flicked it on. '6reg, ou/re bluffing.+ '4ou/ll never do it2+ .ale elled. 'I/ll talk2 I/ll ruin our plan2 4ou/re onl hours awa from our dream2 1ontrolling all the data in the world2 7o more T<A7-,T<. 7o more limits"0ust free information. It/s a chance of a lifetime2 4ou won/t let it slip b 2+ -trathmore voice was like steel. '(atch me.+ '!ut"but what about -usan)+ .ale stammered. '4ou make that call, and she dies2+ -trathmore held firm. 'That/s a chance I/m read to take.+ '!ullshit2 4ou/ve got a bigger hard%on for her than ou do for &igital $ortress2 I know ou2 4ou won/t risk it2+ -usan began to make an angr rebuttal, but -trathmore beat her to it. '4oung man2 4ou dont know me2 I take risks for a living. If ou/re looking to pla hardball, let/s pla 2+ .e started punching ke s on his phone. '4ou mis0udged me, son2 7obod threatens the lives of m emplo ees and walks out2+ .e raised the phone and barked into the receiver, '-witchboard2 6et me -ecurit 2+ .ale began to tor;ue -usan/s neck. 'I%I/ll kill her. I swear it2+ '4ou/ll do no such thing2+ -trathmore proclaimed. 'Gilling -usan will 0ust make things wor"+ .e broke off and rammed the phone against his mouth. '-ecurit 2 This is 1ommander Trevor -trathmore. (e/ve got a hostage situation in 1r pto2 6et some men in here2 4es, no$, goddamn it2 (e also have a generator failure. I want power routed from all available e3ternal sources. I want all s stems on%line in five minutes2 6reg .ale killed one of m 0unior - s%-ecs. .e/s holding m senior cr ptographer hostage. 4ou/re cleared to use tear gas on all of us if necessar 2 If *r. .ale doesn/t cooperate, have snipers shoot him dead. I/ll take full responsibilit . &o it now2+ .ale stood motionless"apparentl limp in disbelief. .is grip on -usan eased. -trathmore snapped his phone shut and shoved it back onto his belt. '4our move, 6reg.+

Chapter 81
!ecker stood blear %e ed beside the telephone booth on the terminal concourse. &espite his burning face and a vague nausea, his spirits were soaring. It was over. Trul over. .e was on his wa home. The ring on his finger was the grail he/d been seeking. .e held his hand up in the light and s;uinted at the gold band. .e couldn/t focus well enough to read, but the inscription didn/t appear to be in English. The first s mbol was either a B, an #, or a zero, his e es hurt too much to tell. !ecker studied the first few characters. The made no sense. This $as a matter of nationa! se urity6 !ecker stepped into the phone booth and dialed -trathmore. !efore he had finished the international prefi3, he got a recording. 'Todos los circuitos estTn ocupados,+ the voice said. 'Please hang up and tr our call later.+ !ecker frowned and hung up. .e/d forgottenC 6etting an international connection from -pain was like roulette, all a matter of timing and luck. .e/d have to tr again in a few minutes. !ecker fought to ignore the waning sting of the pepper in his e es. *egan had told him rubbing his e es would onl make them worse; he couldn/t imagine. Impatient, he tried the phone again. -till no circuits. !ecker couldn/t wait an longer"his e es were on fire; he had to flush them

with water. -trathmore would have to wait a minute or two. .alf blind, !ecker made his wa toward the bathrooms. The blurr image of the cleaning cart was still in front of the men/s room, so !ecker turned again toward the door marked damas. .e thought he heard sounds inside. .e knocked. '.ola)+ -ilence. Probab!y Megan, he thought. -he had five hours to kill before her flight and had said she was going to scrub her arm till it was clean. '*egan)+ he called. .e knocked again. There was no repl . !ecker pushed the door open. '.ello)+ .e went in. The bathroom appeared empt . .e shrugged and walked to the sink. The sink was still filth , but the water was cold. !ecker felt his pores tighten as he splashed the water in his e es. The pain began to ease, and the fog graduall lifted. !ecker e ed himself in the mirror. .e looked like he/d been cr ing for da s. .e dried his face on the sleeve of his 0acket, and then it suddenl occurred to him. In all the e3citement, he/d forgotten where he was. .e was at the airport2 -omewhere out thereon the tarmac, in one of the -eville airport/s three private hangars, there was a ,ear0et 89 waiting to take him home. The pilot had stated ver clearl , 8 ha.e orders to stay here unti! you return. It was hard to believe, !ecker thought, that after all this, he had ended up right back where he/d started. (hat am 8 $aiting for6 he laughed. 8m sure the pi!ot an radio a message to Strathmore4 1huckling to himself, !ecker glanced in the mirror and straightened his tie. .e was about to go when the reflection of something behind him caught his e e. .e turned. It appeared to be one end of *egan/s duffel, protruding from under a partiall open stall door. '*egan)+ he called. There was no repl . 5Megan67 !ecker walked over. .e rapped loudl on the side of the stall. 7o answer. .e gentl pushed the door. It swung open. !ecker fought back a cr of horror. *egan was on the toilet, her e es rolled sk ward. &ead center of her forehead, a bullet hole oozed blood li;uid down her face. '#h, ?esus2+ !ecker cried in shock. 'EstT muerta,+ a barel human voice croaked behind him. '-he/s dead.+ It was like a dream. !ecker turned. '-eWor !ecker)+ the eerie voice asked. &azed, !ecker studied the man stepping into the rest room. .e looked oddl familiar. '-o .ulohot,+ the killer said. 'I am .ulohot.+ The misshapen words seemed to emerge from the depths of his stomach. .ulohot held out his hand. 'El anillo. The ring.+ !ecker stared blankl . The man reached in his pocket and produced a gun. .e raised the weapon and trained it on !ecker/s head. 'El anillo.+ In an instant of clarit , !ecker felt a sensation he had never known. As if cued b some subconscious survival instinct, ever muscle in his bod tensed simultaneousl . .e flew through the air as the shot spat out. !ecker crashed down on top of *egan. A bullet e3ploded against the wall behind him. '*ierda2+ .ulohot seethed. -omehow, at the last possible instant, &avid !ecker had dived out of the wa . The assassin advanced. !ecker pulled himself off the lifeless teenager. There were approaching footsteps. !reathing. The cock of a weapon. 'AdiSs,+ the man whispered as he lunged like a panther, swinging his weapon into the stall. The gun went off. There was a flash of red. !ut it was no tblood. It was something else. An ob0ect had materialized as if out of nowhere, sailing out of the stall and hitting the killer in the chest, causing his gun to fire a split second earl . It was *egan/s duffel. !ecker e3ploded from the stall. .e buried his shoulder in the man/s chest and drove him back into the sink. There was a bone%crushing crash. A mirror shattered. The gun fell free. The two men

collapsed to the floor. !ecker tore himself awa and dashed for the e3it. .ulohot scrambled for his weapon, spun, and fired. The bullet ripped into the slamming bathroom door. The empt e3panse of the airport concourse loomed before !ecker like an uncrossable desert. .is legs surged beneath him faster than he/d ever known the could move. As he skidded into the revolving door, a shot rang out behind him. The glass panel in front of him e3ploded in a shower of glass. !ecker pushed his shoulder into the frame and the door rotated forward. A moment later he stumbled onto the pavement outside. A ta3i stood waiting. '&O0ame entrar2+ !ecker screamed, pounding on the locked door. ',et me in2+ The driver refused; his fare with the wire%rim glasses had asked him to wait. !ecker turned and saw .ulohot streaking across he concourse, gun in hand. !ecker e ed his little :espa on the sidewalk. 8m dead. .ulohot blasted through the revolving doors 0ust in time to see !ecker tr ing in vain to kick start his :espa. .ulohot smiled and raised his weapon. The ho&e4 !ecker fumbled with the levers under the gas tank. .e 0umped on the starter again. It coughed and died. 'El anillo. The ring.+ The voice was close. !ecker looked up. .e saw the barrel of a gun. The chamber was rotating. .e rammed his foot on the starter once again. .ulohot/s shot 0ust missed !ecker/s head as the little bike sprang to life and lurched forward. !ecker hung on for his life as the motorc cle bounced down a grass embankment and wobbled around the corner of the building onto the runwa . Enraged, .ulohot raced toward his waiting ta3i. -econds later, the driver la stunned on the curb watching his ta3i peel out in a cloud of dust.

Chapter 82
As the implications of the 1ommander/s phone call to -ecurit began to settle on the dazed 6reg .ale, he found himself weakened b a wave of panic. Se urity is oming4 -usan began to slip awa . .ale recovered, clutching at her midsection, pulling her back. ',et me go2+ she cried, her voice echoing though the dome. .ale/s mind was in overdrive. The commander/s call had taken him totall b surprise. Strathmore phoned Se urity4 <es sa rifi ing his p!ans for Digita! Fortress4 7ot in a million ears had .ale imagined the commander would let &igital $ortress slip b . This back door was the chance of a lifetime. As the panic rushed in, .ale/s mind seemed to pla tricks on him. .e saw the barrel of -trathmore/s !erretta ever where he looked. .e began to spin, holding -usan close, tr ing to den the commander a shot. &riven b fear, .ale dragged -usan blindl toward the stairs. In five minutes the lights would come on, the doors would open, and a -(AT team would pour in. '4ou/re hurting me2+ -usan choked. -he gasped for breath as she stumbled through .ale/s desperate pirouettes. .ale considered letting her go and making a mad dash for -trathmore/s elevator, but it was suicide. .e had no password. !esides, once outside the 7-A without a hostage, .ale knew he was as good as dead. 7ot even his ,otus could outrun a fleet of 7-A helicopters. Susan is the on!y thing that $i!! &eep Strathmore from b!o$ing me off the road4 '-usan,+ .ale blurted, dragging her toward the stairs. '1ome with me2 I swear I won/t hurt ou2+ As -usan fought him, .ale realized he had new problems. Even if he somehow managed to get -trathmore/s elevator open and take -usan with him, she would undoubtedl fight him all the wa out of the building. .ale knew full well that -trathmore/s elevator made onl one stopC 'the Dnderground .ighwa ,+ a restricted lab rinth of underground access tunnels through which 7-A powerbrokers moved in secrec . .ale had no intention of ending up lost in the basement corridors

of the 7-A with a struggling hostage. It was a death trap. Even if he got out, he realized, he had no gun. .ow would he get -usan across the parking lot) .ow would he drive) It was the voice of one of .ale/s marine, militar %strateg professors that gave him his answerC $orce a hand, the voice warned, and it will fight ou. !ut convince a mind to think as ou want it to think, and ou have an all . '-usan,+ .ale heard himself sa ing, '-trathmore/s a killer2 4ou/re in danger here2+ -usan didn/t seem to hear. .ale knew it was an absurd angle an wa ; -trathmore would never hurt -usan, and she knew it. .ale strained his e es into the darkness, wondering where the commander was hidden. -trathmore had fallen silent suddenl , which made .ale even more panick . .e sensed his time was up. -ecurit would arrive at an moment. (ith a surge of strength, .ale wrapped his arms around -usan/s waist and pulled her hard up the stairs. -he hooked her heels on the first step and pulled back. It was no use, .ale overpowered her. 1arefull , .ale backed up the stairs with -usan in tow. Pushing her up might have been easier, but the landing at the top was illuminated from -trathmore/s computer monitors. If -usan went first, -trathmore would have a clear shot at .ale/s back. Pulling -usan behind him, .ale had a human shield between himself and the 1r pto floor. About a third of the wa up, .ale sensed movement at the bottom of the stairs. Strathmores ma&ing his mo.e4 '&on/t tr it, 1ommander,+ he hissed. '4ou/ll onl get her killed.+ .ale waited. !ut there was onl silence. .e listened closel . 7othing. The bottom of the stairs was still. (as he imagining things) It didn/t matter. -trathmore would never risk a shot with -usan in the wa . !ut as .ale backed up the stairs dragging -usan behind him, something une3pected happened. There was a faint thud on the landing behind him. .ale stopped, adrenaline surging. .ad -trathmore slipped upstairs) Instinct told him -trathmore was at the bottom of the stairs. !ut then, suddenl , it happened again"louder this time. A distinct step on the upper landing2 In terror, .ale realized his mistake. Strathmores on the !anding behind me4 <e has a !ear shot of my ba &4 In desperation, he spun -usan back to his uphill side and started retreating backwards down the steps. As he reached the bottom step, he stared wildl up at the landing and elled, '!ack off, 1ommander2 !ack off, or I/ll break her"+ The butt of a !erretta came slicing through the air at the foot of the stairs and crashed down into .ale/s skull. As -usan tore free of the slumping .ale, she wheeled in confusion. -trathmore grabbed her and reeled her in, cradling her shaking bod . '-hhh,+ he soothed. 'It/s me. 4ou/re oka .+ -usan was trembling. '1om5 mander.+ -he gasped, disoriented. 'I thought5 I thought ou were upstairs5 I heard5+ 'Eas now,+ he whispered. '4ou heard me toss m loafers up onto the landing.+ -usan found herself laughing and cr ing at the same time. The commander had 0ust saved her life. -tanding there in the darkness, -usan felt an overwhelming sense of relief. It was not, however, without guilt; -ecurit was coming. -he had foolishl let .ale grab her, and he had used her against -trathmore. -usan knew the commander had paid a huge price to save her. 'I/m sorr ,+ she said. '(hat for)+ '4our plans for &igital $ortress5 the /re ruined.+ -trathmore shook his head. '7ot at all.+ '!ut5 but what about -ecurit ) The /ll be here an minute. (e won/t have time to"+ '-ecurit /s not coming, -usan. (e/ve got all the time in the world.+ -usan was lost. #ot oming6 '!ut ou phoned5+ -trathmore chuckled. '#ldest trick in the book. I faked the call.+

Chapter 83
!ecker/s :espa was no doubt the smallest vehicle ever to tear down the -eville runwa . Its top speed, a whining >9 mph, sounded more like a chainsaw than a motorc cle and was unfortunatel well below the necessar power to become airborne. In his side mirror, !ecker saw the ta3i swing out onto the darkened runwa about four hundred ards back. It immediatel started gaining. !ecker faced front. In the distance, the contour of the airplane hangars stood framed against the night sk about a half mile out. !ecker wondered if the ta3i would overtake him in that distance. .e knew -usan could do the math in two seconds and calculate his odds. !ecker suddenl felt fear like he had never known. .e lowered his head and twisted the throttle as far as it would go. The :espa was definitel topped out. !ecker guessed the ta3i behind him was doing almost ninet , twice his speed. .e set his sights on the three structures looming in the distance. The midd!e one. Thats $here the 3ear?et is. A shot rang out. The bullet buried itself in the runwa ards behind him. !ecker looked back. The assassin was hanging out the window taking aim. !ecker swerved and his side mirror e3ploded in a shower of glass. .e could feel the impact of the bullet all the wa up the handlebars. .e la his bod flat on the bike. 'od he!p me, 8m not going to ma&e it4 The tarmac in front of !ecker/s :espa was growing brighter now. The ta3i was closing, the headlights throwing ghostl shadows down the runwa . A shot fired. The bullet ricocheted off the hull of the bike. !ecker struggled to keep from going into a swerve. 8.e got to ma&e the hangar4 .e wondered if the ,ear0et pilot could see them coming. Does he ha.e a $eapon6 (i!! he open the abin doors in time6 !ut as !ecker approached the lit e3panse of the open hangars, he realized the ;uestion was moot. The ,ear0et was nowhere to be seen. .e s;uinted through blurred vision and pra ed he was hallucinating. .e was not. The hangar was bare. )h my 'od4 (heres the p!ane4 As the two vehicles rocketed into the empt hangar, !ecker desperatel searched for an escape. There was none. The building/s rear wall, an e3pansive sheet of corrugated metal, had no doors or windows. The ta3i roared up beside him, and !ecker looked left to see .ulohot raising his gun. <efle3 took over. !ecker slammed down on his brakes. .e barel slowed. The hangar floor was slick with oil. The :espa went into a headlong skid. !eside him there was a deafening s;ueal as the ta3i/s brakes locked and the balding tires h droplaned on the slipper surface. The car spun around in a cloud of smoke and burning rubber onl inches to the left of !ecker/s skidding :espa. 7ow side b side, the two vehicles skimmed out of control on a collision course with the rear of the hangar. !ecker desperatel pumped his brakes, but there was no traction; it was like driving on ice. In front of him, the metal wall loomed. It was coming fast. As the ta3i spiraled wildl beside him, !ecker faced the wall and braced for the impact. There was an earsplitting crash of steel and corrugated metal. !ut there was no pain. !ecker found himself suddenl in the open air, still on his :espa, bouncing across a grass field. It was as if the hangar/s back wall had vanished before him. The ta3i was still beside him, careening across the field. An enormous sheet of corrugated metal from the hangar/s back wall billowed off the ta3i/s hood and sailed over !ecker/s head. .eart racing, !ecker gunned the :espa and took off into the night.

Chapter 84
?abba let out a contented sigh as he finished the last of his solder points. .e switched off the iron, put down his penlight, and la a moment in the darkness of the mainframe computer. .e was beat. .is neck hurt. Internal work was alwa s cramped, especiall for a man of his size. And the 0ust keep building them smaller, he mused.

As he closed his e es for a well%deserved moment of rela3ation, someone outside began pulling on his boots. '?abba2 6et out here2+ a woman/s voice elled. *idge found me. .e groaned. '?abba2 6et out here2+ <eluctantl he slithered out. '$or the love of 6od, *idge2 I told ou"+ !ut it was not *idge. ?abba looked up, surprised. '-oshi)+ -oshi Guta was a ninet %pound live wire. -he was ?abba/s righthand assistant, a razor%sharp - s%-ec techie from *IT. -he often worked late with ?abba and was the one member of his staff who seemed unintimidated b him. -he glared at him and demanded, '(h the hell didn/t ou answer our phone) #r m page)+ 5%our page,+ ?abba repeated. 'I thought it was"+ '7ever mind. There/s something strange going on in the main databank.+ ?abba checked his watch. '-trange)+ 7ow he was growing concerned. '1an ou be an more specific)+ Two minutes later ?abba was dashing down the hall toward the databank.

Chapter 85
6reg .ale la curled on the 7ode F floor. -trathmore and -usan had 0ust dragged him across 1r pto and bound his hands and feet with twelve%gauge printer cable from the 7ode F laser%printers. -usan couldn/t get over the artful maneuver the commander had 0ust e3ecuted. <e fa&ed the a!!4 -omehow -trathmore had captured .ale, saved -usan, and bought himself the time needed to rewrite &igital $ortress. -usan e ed the bound cr ptographer uneasil . .ale was breathing heavil . -trathmore sat on the couch with the !erretta propped awkwardl in his lap. -usan returned her attention to .ale/s terminal and continued her random%string search. .er fourth string search ran its course and came up empt . '-till no luck.+ -he sighed. '(e ma need to wait for &avid to find Tankado/s cop .+ -trathmore gave her a disapproving look. 'If &avid fails, and Tankado/s ke falls into the wrong hands5+ -trathmore didn/t need to finish. -usan understood. Dntil the &igital $ortress file on the Internet had been replaced with -trathmore/s modified version, Tankado/s pass%ke was dangerous. 'After we make the switch,+ -trathmore added, 'I don/t care how man pass%ke s are floating around; the more the merrier.+ .e motioned for her to continue searching. '!ut until then, we/re pla ing beat%the%clock.+ -usan opened her mouth to acknowledge, but her words were drowned out b a sudden deafening blare. The silence of 1r pto was shattered b a warning horn from the sublevels. -usan and -trathmore e3changed startled looks. '(hat/s that67 -usan elled, timing her ;uestion between the intermittent bursts. 'T<A7-,T<2+ -trathmore called back, looking troubled. 'It/s too hot2 *a be .ale was right about the au3 power not pulling enough freon.+ '(hat about the auto%abort)+ -trathmore thought a moment, then elled, '-omething must have shorted.+ A ellow siren light spun above the 1r pto floor and swept a pulsating glare across his face. '4ou better abort2+ -usan called. -trathmore nodded. There was no telling what would happen if three million silicon processors overheated and decided to ignite. -trathmore needed to get upstairs to his terminal and abort the &igital $ortress run"particularl before an one outside of 1r pto noticed the trouble and decided to send in the cavalr .

-trathmore shot a glance at the still%unconscious .ale. .e laid the !erretta on a table near -usan and elled over the sirens, '!e right back2+ As he disappeared through the hole in the 7ode F wall, -trathmore called over his shoulder, 'And find me that pass%ke 2+ -usan e ed the results of her unproductive pass%ke search and hoped -trathmore would hurr up and abort. The noise and lights in 1r pto felt like a missile launch. #n the floor, .ale began to stir. (ith each blast of the horn, he winced. -usan surprised herself b grabbing the !erretta. .ale opened his e es to -usan $letcher standing over him with the gun leveled at his crotch. '(here/s the pass%ke )+ -usan demanded. .ale was having trouble getting his bearings. '(h%what happened)+ '4ou blew it, that/s what happened. 7ow, where/s the passke )+ .ale tried to move his arms but realized he was tied. .is face became taut with panic. ',et me go2+ 'I need the pass%ke ,+ -usan repeated. 'I don/t have it2 ,et me go2+ .ale tried to getup. .e could barel roll over. -usan elled between blasts of the horn. '4ou/re 7orth &akota, and Ensei Tankado gave ou a cop of his ke . I need it now2+ '4ou/re craz 2+ .ale gasped. 'I/m not 7orth &akota2+ .e struggled unsuccessfull to free himself. -usan charged angril . '&on/t lie to me. (h the hell is all of 7orth &akota/s mail in your account)+ 'I told ou before2+ .ale pleaded as the horns blared on. 'I snooped -trathmore2 That E%mail in m account was mail I copied out of Strathmores account"E%mail 1#*I7T stole from Tankado2+ '!ull2 4ou could never snoop the commander/s account2+ '4ou don/t understand2+ .ale elled. 'There was a!ready a tap on -trathmore/s account2+ .ale delivered his words in short bursts between the sirens. '-omeone else put the tap there. I think it was &irector $ontaine2 I 0ust pigg backed2 4ou/ve got to believe me2 That/s how I found out about his plan to rewrite &igital $ortress2 I/ve been reading -trathmore/s brainstorms2+ +rain Storms6 -usan paused. -trathmore had undoubtedl outlined his plans for &igital $ortress using his !rain-torm software. If an one had snooped the commander/s account, all the information would have been available5 '<ewriting &igital $ortress is si &47 .ale cried. '4ou know damn well what it implies =tota! 7-A access2+ The sirens blasted, drowning him out, but .ale was possessed. '4ou think we/re read for that responsibilit ) 4ou think anyone is) It/s fucking shortsighted2 4ou sa our government has the people/s best interests at heart) 6reat2 !ut what happens when some future government doesnt have our best interests at heart2 This technolog is fore.er47 -usan could barel hear him; the noise in 1r pto was deafening. .ale struggled to get free. .e looked -usan in the e e and kept elling. '.ow the hell do civilians defend themselves against a police state when the gu at the top has access to a!! their lines of communication) .ow do the plan a revolt)+ -usan had heard this argument man times. The future%governments argument was a stock E$$ complaint. '-trathmore had to be stopped2+ .ale screamed as the sirens blasted. 'I swore 8d do it. That/s what I/ve been doing here all da "watching his account, waiting for him to make his move so I could record the switch in progress. I needed proof"evidence that he/d written in a back door. That/s wh I copied all his E%mail into m account. It was evidence that he/d been watching &igital $ortress. I planned to go to the press with the information.+ -usan/s heart skipped. .ad she heard correctl ) -uddenl this did sound like 6reg .ale. (as it possib!e6 If .ale had known about -trathmore/s plan to release a tainted version of &igital $ortress, he could wait until the whole world was using it and then drop his bombshell"complete with proof2

-usan imagined the headlinesC 1r ptographer 6reg .ale unveils secret D.-. plan to control global information2 (as it -kip0ack all over) Dncovering an 7-A back door again would make 6reg .ale famous be ond his wildest dreams. It would also sink the 7-A. -he suddenl found herself wondering if ma be .ale was telling the truth. #o4 she decided. )f ourse not4 .ale continued to plead. 'I aborted our tracer because I thought ou were looking for me4 I thought ou suspected -trathmore was being snooped2 I didn/t want ou to find the leak and trace it back to me2+ 8t $as p!ausib!e but un!i&e!y. 'Then wh /d ou kill 1hartrukian)+ -usan snapped. 'I didn/t2+ .ale screamed over the noise. '-trathmore was the one who pushed him2 I saw the whole thing from downstairs2 1hartrukian was about to call the - s%-ecs and ruin -trathmore/s plans for the back door2+ .ale/s good, -usan thought. .e/s got an angle for ever thing. ',et me go2+ .ale begged. 'I didn/t do an thing2+ '&idn/t do an thing)+ -usan shouted, wondering what was taking -trathmore so long. '4ou and Tankado were holding the 7-A hostage. At least until ou double%crossed him. Tell me,+ she pressed, 'did Tankado reall die of a heart attack, or did ou have one of our buddies take him out)+ '4ou/re so blind2+ .ale elled. '1an/t ou see I/m not involved) Dntie me2 !efore -ecurit gets here2+ '-ecurit /s not coming,+ she snapped flatl . .ale turned white. '(hat)+ '-trathmore faked the phone call.+ .ale/s e es went wide. .e seemed momentaril paral zed. Then he began writhing fiercel . '-trathmore/ll kill me2 I know he will2 I know too much2+ 'Eas , 6reg.+ The sirens blared as .ale elled out, '!ut I/m innocent2+ '4ou/re l ing2 And I have proof2+ -usan strode around the ring of terminals. '<emember that tracer ou aborted)+ she asked, arriving at her own terminal. 'I sent it again2 -hall we see if it/s back et)+ -ure enough, on -usan/s screen, a blinking icon alerted her that her tracer had returned. -he palmed her mouse and opened the message. This data $i!! sea! <a!es fate, she thought. <a!e is #orth Da&ota. The databo3 opened. <a!e is " -usan stopped. The tracer materialized, and -usan stood in stunned silence. There had to be some mistake; the tracer had fingered someone else"a most unlikel person. -usan steadied herself on the terminal and reread the databo3 before her. It was the same information -trathmore said hed received when he ran the tracer2 -usan had figured -trathmore had made a mistake, but she knew she/d configured the tracer perfectl . And et the information on the screen was unthinkableC
7&AG#TA ` ETQ&#-.I-.A.E&D

'ET)+ -usan demanded, her head swimming. 'Ensei Tankado is 7orth &akota)+ It was inconceivable. If the data was correct, Tankado and his partner were the same person. -usan/s thoughts were suddenl disconnected. -he wished the blaring horn would stop. (hy doesnt Strathmore turn that damn thing off6 .ale twisted on the floor, straining to see -usan. '(hat does it sa ) Tell me2+ -usan blocked out .ale and the chaos around her. *nsei Tan&ado is #orth Da&ota. -he reshuffled the pieces tr ing to make them fit. If Tankado was 7orth &akota, then he was sending E%mail to himse!f which meant 7orth &akota didn/t e3ist. Tankado/s partner was a hoa3.

7orth &akota is a ghost, she said to herself. -moke and mirrors. The plo was a brilliant one. Apparentl -trathmore had been watching onl one side of a tennis match. -ince the ball kept coming back, he assumed there was someone on the other side of the net. !ut Tankado had been pla ing against a wall. .e had been proclaiming the virtues of &igital $ortress in E%mail he/d sent to himself. .e had written letters, sent them to an anon mous remailer, and a few hours later, the remailer had sent them right back to him. 7ow, -usan realized, it was all so obvious. Tankado had $anted the commander to snoop him5 he/d $anted him to read the E%mail. Ensei Tankado had created an imaginar insurance polic without ever having to trust another soul with his pass%ke . #f course, to make the whole farce seem authentic, Tankado had used a secret account5 0ust secret enough to alla an suspicions that the whole thing was a setup. Tankado was his own partner. 7orth &akota did not e3ist. Ensei Tankado was a one%man show. A one%man show. A terrif ing thought gripped -usan. Tankado could have used his fake correspondence to convince -trathmore of 0ust about an thing. -he remembered her first reaction when -trathmore told her about the unbreakable algorithm. -he/d sworn it was impossible. The unsettling potential of the situation settled hard in -usan/s stomach. (hat proof did the actuall have that Tankado had rea!!y created &igital $ortress) #nl a lot of h pe in his E%mail. And of course5 T<A7-,T<. The computer had been locked in an endless loop for almost twent hours. -usan knew, however, that there were other programs that could keep T<A7-,T< bus that long, programs far easier to create than an unbreakable algorithm. :iruses. The chill swept across her bod . !ut how could a virus get into T<A7-,T<) ,ike a voice from the grave, Phil 1hartrukian gave the answer. Strathmore bypassed 'aunt!et4 In a sickening revelation, -usan grasped the truth. -trathmore had downloaded Tankado/s &igital $ortress file and tried to send it into T<A7-,T< to break it. !ut 6auntlet had re0ected the file because it contained dangerous mutation strings. 7ormall -trathmore would have been concerned, but he had seen Tankado/s E%mail=Mutation strings are the tri &4 1onvinced &igital $ortress was safe to load, -trathmore b passed 6auntlet/s filters and sent the file into T<A7-,T<. -usan could barel speak. 'There is no &igital $ortress,+ she choked as the sirens blared on. -lowl , weakl , she leaned against her terminal. Tankado had gone fishing for fools5 and the 7-A had taken the bait. Then, from upstairs, came a long cr of anguish. It was -trathmore.

Chapter 86
Trevor -trathmore was hunched at his desk when -usan arrived breathless at his door. .is head was down, his sweat head glistening in the light of his monitor. The horns on the sublevels blared. -usan raced over to his desk. '1ommander)+ -trathmore didn/t move. '1ommander2 (e/ve got to shut down T<A7-,T<2 (e/ve got a"+ '.e got us,+ -trathmore said without looking up. 'Tankado fooled us all5+ -he could tell b the tone of his voice he understood. All of Tankado/s h pe about the unbreakable algorithm5 auctioning off the pass%ke "it was all an act, a charade. Tankado had tricked the 7-A into snooping his mail, tricked them into believing he had a partner, and tricked them into downloading a ver dangerous file. 'The mutation strings"+ -trathmore faltered. 'I know.+ The commander looked up slowl . 'The file I downloaded off the Internet5 it was a5+

-usan tried to sta calm. All the pieces in the game had shifted. There had never been an unbreakable algorithm"never an &igital $ortress. The file Tankado had posted on the Internet was an encr pted virus, probabl sealed with some generic, mass%market encr ption algorithm, strong enough to keep ever one out of harm/s wa "ever one e3cept the 7-A. T<A7-,T< had cracked the protective seal and released the virus. 'The mutation strings,+ the commander croaked. 'Tankado said the were 0ust part of the algorithm.+ -trathmore collapsed back onto his desk. -usan understood the commander/s pain. .e had been completel taken in. Tankado had never intended to let an computer compan bu his algorithm. There $as no algorithm. The whole thing was a charade. &igital $ortress was a ghost, a farce, a piece of bait created to tempt the 7-A. Ever move -trathmore had made, Tankado had been behind the scenes, pulling the strings. 'I b passed 6auntlet.+ The commander groaned. '4ou didn/t know.+ -trathmore pounded his fist on his desk. 'I shou!d have known2 .is screen name, for 1hrist/s sake2 7&AG#TA2 ,ook at it2+ '(hat do ou mean)+ '.e/s laughing at us2 It/s a goddamn anagram2+ -usan puzzled a moment. #DAG)TA is an anagram6 -he pictured the letters and began reshuffling them in her mind. #da&ota Gadotan )&tadan Tando&a .er knees went weak. -trathmore was right. It was as plain as da . .ow could the have missed it) 7orth &akota wasn/t a reference to the D.-. state at all"it was Tankado rubbing salt in the wound2 .e/d even sent the 7-A a warning, a blatant clue that he himself was 7&AG#TA. The letters spelled TA7GA&#. !ut the best code%breakers in the world had missed it, 0ust as he had planned. 'Tankado was mocking us,+ -trathmore said. '4ou/ve got to abort T<A7-,T<,+ -usan declared. -trathmore stared blankl at the wall. '1ommander. -hut it down2 6od onl knows what/s going on in there2+ 'I tried,+ -trathmore whispered, sounding as faint as she/d ever heard him. '(hat do ou mean ou tried67 -trathmore rotated his screen toward her. .is monitor had dimmed to a strange shade of maroon. At the bottom, the dialogue bo3 showed numerous attempts to shut down T<A7-,T<. The were all followed b the same responseC
-#<<4. D7A!,E T# A!#<T.

-#<<4. D7A!,E T# A!#<T.

-#<<4. D7A!,E T# A!#<T.

-usan felt a chill. :nab!e to abort6 +ut $hy6 -he feared she alread knew the answer. So this is Tan&ados re.enge6 Destroying T>A#S3T>4 $or ears Ensei Tankado had wanted the world to know about T<A7-,T<, but no one had believed him. -o he/d decided to destro the great beast himself. .e/d fought to the death for what he believed"the individual/s right to privac . &ownstairs the sirens blared. '(e/ve got to kill all power,+ -usan demanded. '7ow2+ -usan knew that if the hurried, the could save the great parallel processing machine. Ever computer in the world"from <adio -hack P1s to 7A-A/s satellite control s stems"had a built%in fail%safe for situations like this. It wasn/t a glamorous fi3, but it alwa s worked. It was known as 'pulling the plug.+

! shutting off the remaining power in 1r pto, the could force T<A7-,T< to shut down. The could remove the virus later. It would be a simple matter of reformatting T<A7-,T</s hard drives. <eformatting would completel erase the computer/s memor "data, programming, virus, e.erything. In most cases, reformatting resulted in the loss of thousands of files, sometimes ears of work. !ut T<A7-,T< was different"it could be reformatted with virtuall no loss at all. Parallel processing machines were designed to think, not to remember. 7othing was actuall stored inside T<A7-,T<. #nce it broke a code, it sent the results to the 7-A/s main databank in order to" -usan froze. In a stark instant of realization, she brought her hand to her mouth and muffled a scream. 'The main databank2+ -trathmore stared into the darkness, his voice disembodied. .e/d apparentl alread made this realization. '4es, -usan. The main databank5.+ -usan nodded blankl . Tankado used T<A7-,T< to put a virus in our main databank. -trathmore motioned sickl to his monitor. -usan returned her gaze to the screen in front of her and looked beneath the dialogue bo3. Across the bottom of the screen were the wordsC
TE,, T.E (#<,& A!#DT T<A7-,T<

#7,4 T.E T<DT. (I,, -A:E 4#D 7#(5

-usan felt cold. The nation/s most classified information was stored at the 7-AC militar communication protocols, -I6I7T confirmation codes, identities of foreign spies, blueprints for advanced weaponr , digitized documents, trade agreements"the list was unending. 'Tankado wouldn/t dare2+ she declared. '1orrupting a countr /s classified records)+ -usan couldn/t believe even Ensei Tankado would dare attack the 7-A databank. -he stared at his message.
#7,4 T.E T<DT. (I,, -A:E 4#D 7#(

'The truth)+ she asked. 'The truth about what)+ -trathmore was breathing heavil . 'T<A7-,T<,+ he croaked. 'The truth about T<A7-,T<.+ -usan nodded. It made perfect sense. Tankado was forcing the 7-A to tell the world about T<A7-,T<. It was blackmail after all. .e was giving the 7-A a choice"either tell the world about T<A7-,T< or lose our databank. -he stared in awe at the te3t before her. At the bottom of the screen, a single line was blinked menacingl .
E7TE< PA--%GE4

-taring at the pulsating words, -usan understood"the virus, the pass%ke , Tankado/s ring, the ingenious blackmail plot. The pass%ke had nothing to do with unlocking an algorithm; it was an antidote. The pass%ke stopped the virus. -usan had read a lot about viruses like this"deadl programs that included a built%in cure, a secret ke that could be used to deactivate them. Tan&ado ne.er p!anned to destroy the #SA databan&=he ?ust $anted us go pub!i $ith T>A#S3T>4 Then he $ou!d gi.e us the pass-&ey, so $e ou!d stop the .irus4 It was now clear to -usan that Tankado/s plan had gone terribl wrong. .e had not planned on d ing. .e/d planned on sitting in a -panish bar and listening to the 177 press conference about

America/s top%secret code%breaking computer. Then he/d planned on calling -trathmore, reading the pass%ke off the ring, and saving the databank in the nick of time. After a good laugh, he/d disappear into oblivion, an E$$ hero. -usan pounded her fist on the desk. '(e need that ring2 It/s the on!y pass%ke 2+ -he now understood"there $as no 7orth &akota, no second pass%ke . Even if the 7-A went public with T<A7-,T<, Tankado was no longer around to save the da . -trathmore was silent. The situation was more serious than -usan had ever imagined. The most shocking thing of all was that Tankado had allowed it to go this far. .e had obviousl known what would happen if the 7-A didn/t get the ring"and et, in his final seconds of life, he/d given the ring awa . .e had deliberatel tried to keep it from them. Then again, -usan realized, what could she expe t Tankado to do"save the ring for them, when he thought the 7-A had killed him) -till, -usan couldn/t believe that Tankado would have allowed this to happen. .e was a pacifist. .e didn/t want to wreak destruction; all he wanted was to set the record straight. This was about T<A7-,T<. This was about ever one/s right to keep a secret. This was about letting the world know that the 7-A was listening. &eleting the 7-A/s databank was an act of aggression -usan could not imagine Ensei Tankado committing. The sirens pulled her back to realit . -usan e ed the debilitated commander and knew what he was thinking. 7ot onl were his plans for a back door in &igital $ortress shot, but his carelessness had put the 7-A on the brink of what could turn out to be the worst securit disaster in D.-. histor . '1ommander, this is not our fault2+ she insisted over the blare of the horns. 'If Tankado hadn/t died, we/d have bargaining power"we/d have options2+ !ut 1ommander -trathmore heard nothing. .is life was over. .e/d spent thirt ears serving his countr . This was supposed to be his moment of glor , his pibce de rOsistance"aback door in the world encr ption standard. !ut instead, he had sent a virus into the main databank of the 7ational -ecurit Agenc . There was no wa to stop it"not without killing power and erasing ever last one of the billions of b tes of irretrievable data. #nl the ring could save them, and if &avid hadn/t found the ring b now5 'I need to shut down T<A7-,T<2+ -usan took control. 'I/m going down to the sublevels to throw the circuit breaker.+ -trathmore turned slowl to face her. .e was a broken man. 'I/ll do it,+ he croaked. .e stood up, stumbling as he tried to slide out from behind his desk. -usan sat him back down. '7o,+ she barked. 58m going.+ .er tone left no room for debate. -trathmore put his face in his hands. '#ka . !ottom floor. !eside the freon pumps.+ -usan spun and headed for the door. .alfwa there, she turned and looked back. '1ommander,+ she elled. 'This is not over. (e/re not beaten et. If &avid finds the ring in time, we can save the databank2+ -trathmore said nothing. '1all the databank2+ -usan ordered. '(arn them about the virus2 4ou/re the deput director of the 7-A. 4ou/re a survivor2+ In slow motion, -trathmore looked up. ,ike a man making the decision of a lifetime, he gave her a tragic nod. &etermined, -usan tore into the darkness.

Chapter 87
The :espa lurched into the slow lane of the 1arretera de .uelva. It was almost dawn, but there was plent of traffic" oung -evillians returning from their all%night beach verbenas. A van of teenagers laid on its horn and flew b . !ecker/s motorc cle felt like a to out there on the freewa . A ;uarter of a mile back, a demolished ta3i swerved out onto the freewa in a shower of sparks. As it accelerated, it sideswiped a Peugeot >9L and sent it careening onto the grass median.

!ecker passed a freewa markerC -E:I,,A 1E7T<#"= G*. If he could 0ust reach the cover of downtown, he knew he might have a chance. .is speedometer read 89 kilometers per hour. T$o minutes to the exit. .e knew he didn/t have that long. -omewhere behind him, the ta3i was gaining. !ecker gazed out at the nearing lights of downtown -eville and pra ed he would reach them alive. .e was onl halfwa to the e3it when the sound of scraping metal loomed up behind him. .e hunched on his bike, wrenching the throttle as far as it would go. There was a muffled gunshot, and a bullet sailed b . !ecker cut left, weaving back and forth across the lanes in hopes of bu ing more time. It was no use. The e3it ramp was still three hundred ards when the ta3i roared to within a few car lengths behind him. !ecker knew that in a matter of seconds he would be either shot or run down. .e scanned ahead for an possible escape, but the highwa was bounded on both sides b steep gravel slopes. Another shot rang out. !ecker made his decision. In a scream of rubber and sparks, he leaned violentl to his right and swerved off the road. The bike/s tires hit the bottom of the embankment. !ecker strained to keep his balance as the :espa threw up a cloud of gravel and began fish%tailing its wa up the slope. The wheels spun wildl , clawing at the loose earth. The little engine whimpered patheticall as it tried to dig in. !ecker urged it on, hoping it wouldn/t stall. .e didn/t dare look behind him, certain at an moment the ta3i would be skidding to a stop, bullets fl ing. The bullets never came. !ecker/s bike broke over the crest of the hill, and he saw it"the centro. The downtown lights spread out before him like a star%filled sk . .e gunned his wa through some underbrush and out over the curb. .is :espa suddenl felt faster. The Avenue ,uis *ontoto seemed to race beneath his tires. The soccer stadium zipped past on the left. .e was in the clear. It was then that !ecker heard the familiar screech of metal on concrete. .e looked up. A hundred ards ahead of him, the ta3i came roaring up the e3it ramp. It skidded out onto ,uis *ontoto and accelerated directl toward him. !ecker knew he should have felt a surge of panic. !ut he did not. .e knew e3actl where he was going. .e swerved left on *enendez Pela o and opened the throttle. The bike lurched across a small park and into the cobblestoned corridor of *ateus 6ago"the narrow one%wa street that led to the portal of !arrio -anta 1ruz. ?ust a little farther, he thought. The ta3i followed, thundering closer. It trailed !ecker through the gatewa of -anta 1ruz, ripping off its side mirror on the narrow archwa . !ecker knew he had won. -anta 1ruz was the oldest section of -eville. It had no roads between the buildings, onl mazes of narrow walkwa s built in <oman times. The were onl wide enough for pedestrians and the occasional *oped. !ecker had once been lost for hours in the narrow caverns. As !ecker accelerated down the final stretch of *ateus 6ago, -eville/s eleventh%centur 6othic cathedral rose like a mountain before him. &irectl beside it, the 6iralda tower shot L@K feet sk ward into the breaking dawn. This was -anta 1ruz, home to the second largest cathedral in the world as well as -eville/s oldest, most pious 1atholic families. !ecker sped across the stone s;uare. There was a single shot, but it was too late. !ecker and his motorc cle disappeared down a tin passagewa "1allita de la :irgen.

Chapter 88
The headlight of !ecker/s :espa threw stark shadows on the walls of the narrow passagewa s. .e struggled with the gear shift and roared between the whitewashed buildings, giving the inhabitants of -anta 1ruz an earl wake%up call this -unda morning. It had been less than thirt minutes since !ecker/s escape from the airport. .e/d been on the run ever since, his mind grappling with endless ;uestionsC (hos trying to &i!! me6 (hats so spe ia! about this ring6 (here is the #SA ?et6 .e thought of *egan dead in the stall, and the nausea crept back.

!ecker had hoped to cut directl across the barrio and e3it on the other side, but -anta 1ruz was a bewildering lab rinth of alle wa s. It was peppered with false starts and dead ends. !ecker ;uickl became disoriented. .e looked up for the tower of the 6iralda to get his bearings, but the surrounding walls were so high he could see nothing e3cept a thin slit of breaking dawn above him. !ecker wondered where the man in wire%rim glasses was; he knew better than to think the assailant had given up. The killer probabl was after him on foot. !ecker struggled to maneuver his :espa around tight corners. The sputtering of the engine echoed up and down the alle s. !ecker knew he was an eas target in the silence of -anta 1ruz. At this point, all he had in his favor was speed. 'ot to get to the other side4 After a long series of turns and straightawa s, !ecker skidded into a three%wa intersection marked Es;uina de los <e es. .e knew he was in trouble"he had been there alread . As he stood straddling the idling bike, tr ing to decide which wa to turn, the engine sputtered to a stop. The gas gauge read vacio. As if on cue, a shadow appeared down an alle on his left. The human mind is the fastest computer in e3istence. In the ne3t fraction of a second, !ecker/s mind registered the shape of the man/s glasses, searched his memor for a match, found one, registered danger, and re;uested a decision. .e got one. .e dropped the useless bike and took off at a full sprint. Dnfortunatel for !ecker, .ulohot was now on solid ground rather than in a lurching ta3i. .e calml raised his weapon and fired. The bullet caught !ecker in the side 0ust as he stumbled around the corner out of range. .e took five or si3 strides before the sensation began to register. At first it felt like a muscle pull, 0ust above the hip. Then it turned to a warm tingling. (hen !ecker saw the blood, he knew. There was no pain, no pain an where, 0ust a headlong race through the winding maze of -anta 1ruz. *** .ulohot dashed after his ;uarr . .e had been tempted to hit !ecker in the head, but he was a professional; he pla ed the odds. !ecker was a moving target, and aiming at his midsection provided the greatest margin of error both verticall and horizontall . The odds had paid off. !ecker had shifted at the last instant, and rather than missing his head, .ulohot had caught a piece of his side. Although he knew the bullet had barel grazed !ecker and would do no lasting damage, the shot had served its purpose. 1ontact had been made. The pre had been touched b death. It was a whole new game. !ecker raced forward blindl . Turning. (inding. -ta ing out of the straightawa s. The footsteps behind him seemed relentless. !ecker/s mind was blank. !lank to ever thing"where he was, who was chasing him"all that was left was instinct, self preservation, no pain, onl fear, and raw energ . A shot e3ploded against the azule0o tile behind him. -hards of glass spra ed across the back of his neck. .e stumbled left, into another alle . .e heard himself call for help, but e3cept for the sound of footsteps and strained breathing, the morning air remained deathl still. !ecker/s side was burning now. .e feared he was leaving a crimson trail on the whitewashed walks. .e searched ever where for an open door, an open gate, an escape from the suffocating can ons. 7othing. The walkwa narrowed. '-ocorro2+ !ecker/s voice was barel audible. '.elp2+ The walls grew closer on each side. The walkwa curved. !ecker searched for an intersection, a tributar , an wa out. The passagewa narrowed. ,ocked doors. 7arrowing. ,ocked gates. The footsteps were closing. .e was in a straightawa , and suddenl the alle began to slope upward. -teeper. !ecker felt his legs straining. .e was slowing. And then he was there. ,ike a freewa that had run out of funding, the alle 0ust stopped. There was a high wall, a wooden bench, and nothing else. 7o escape. !ecker looked up three stories to the top of the

building and then spun and started back down the long alle , but he had onl taken a few steps before he stopped short. At the foot of the inclined straightawa , a figure appeared. The man moved toward !ecker with a measured determination. In his hand, a gun glinted in the earl morning sun. !ecker felt a sudden lucidit as he backed up toward the wall. The pain in his side suddenl registered. .e touched the spot and looked down. There was blood smeared across his fingers and across Ensei Tankado/s golden ring. .e felt dizz . .e stared at the engraved band, puzzled. .e/d forgotten he was wearing it. .e/d forgotten wh he had come to -eville. .e looked up at the figure approaching. .e looked down at the ring. (as this wh *egan had died) (as this wh he would die) The shadow advanced up the inclined passagewa . !ecker saw walls on all sides"a dead end behind him. A few gated entr wa s between them, but it was too late to call for help. !ecker pressed his back against the dead end. -uddenl he could feel ever piece of grit beneath the soles of his shoes, ever bump in the stucco wall behind him. .is mind was reeling backward, his childhood, his parents5 -usan. #h, 6od5 -usan. $or the first time since he was a kid, !ecker pra ed. .e did not pra for deliverance from death; he did not believe in miracles. Instead he pra ed that the woman he left behind would find strength, that she would know without a doubt that she had been loved. .e closed his e es. The memories came like a torrent. The were not memories of department meetings, universit business, and the things that made up K9 percent of his life; the were memories of her. -imple memoriesC teaching her to use chopsticks, sailing on 1ape 1od. 8 !o.e you, he thought. Gno$ that fore.er. It was as if ever defense, ever facade, ever insecure e3aggeration of his life had been stripped awa . .e was standing naked"flesh and bones before 6od. 8 am a man, he thought. And in a moment of iron he thought, A man $ithout $ax. .e stood, e es closed, as the man in wire%rim glasses drew nearer. -omewhere nearb , a bell began to toll. !ecker waited in darkness, for the sound that would end his life.

Chapter 89
The morning sun was 0ust breaking over the -eville rooftops and shining down into the can ons below. The bells atop the 6iralda cried out for sunrise mass. This was the moment inhabitants had all been waiting for. Ever where in the ancient barrio, gates opened and families poured into the alle wa s. ,ike lifeblood through the veins of old -anta 1ruz, the coursed toward the heart of their pueblo, toward the core of their histor , toward their 6od, their shrine, their cathedral. -omewhere in !ecker/s mind, a bell was tolling. Am 8 dead6 Almost reluctantl , he opened his e es and s;uinted into the first ra s of sunlight. .e knew e3actl where he was. .e leveled his gaze and searched the alle for his assailant. !ut the man in wire%rims was not there. Instead, there were others. -panish families, in their finest clothes, stepping from their gated portals into the alle wa s, talking, laughing. *** At the bottom of the alle , hidden from !ecker/s view, .ulohot cursed in frustration. At first there had been onl a single couple separating him from his ;uarr . .ulohot had been certain the would leave. !ut the sound of the bells kept reverberating down the alle , drawing others from their homes. A second couple, with children. The greeted each another. Talking, laughing, kissing three times on the cheek. Another group appeared, and .ulohot could no longer see his pre . 7ow, in a boiling rage, he raced into the ;uickl growing crowd. .e had to get to &avid !ecker2

The killer fought his wa toward the end of the alle . .e found himself momentaril lost in a sea of bodies"coats and ties, black dresses, lace mantles over hunched women. The all seemed oblivious to .ulohot/s presence; the strolled casuall , all in black, shuffling, moving as one, blocking his wa . .ulohot dug his wa through the crowd and dashed up the alle into the dead end, his weapon raised. Then he let out a muted, inhuman scream. &avid !ecker was gone. *** !ecker stumbled and sidestepped his wa through the crowd. Fo!!o$ the ro$d, he thought. They &no$ the $ay out. .e cut right at the intersection and the alle widened. Ever where gates were opening and people were pouring out. The pealing of the bells grew louder. !ecker/s side was still burning, but he sensed the bleeding had stopped. .e raced on. -omewhere behind him, closing fast, was a man with a gun. !ecker ducked in and out of the groups of churchgoers and tried to keep his head down. It was not much farther. .e could sense it. The crowd had thickened. The alle had widened. The were no longer in a little tributar , this was the main river. As he rounded a bend, !ecker suddenl saw it, rising before them"the cathedral and 6iralda tower. The bells were deafening, the reverberations trapped in the high%walled plaza. The crowds converged, ever one in black, pushing across the s;uare toward the gaping doors of the -eville 1athedral. !ecker tried to break awa toward *ateus 6ago, but he was trapped. .e was shoulder to shoulder, heel to toe with the shoving throngs. The -paniards had alwa s had a different idea of closeness than the rest of the world. !ecker was wedged between two heav set women, both with their e es closed, letting the crowd carr them. The mumbled pra ers to themselves and clutched rosar beads in their fingers. As the crowd closed on the enormous stone structure, !ecker tried to cut left again, but the current was stronger now. The anticipation, the pushing and shoving, the blind, mumbled pra ers. .e turned into the crowd, tr ing to fight backward against the eager throngs. It was impossible, like swimming upstream in a mile%deep river. .e turned. The cathedral doors loomed before him"like the opening to some dark carnival ride he wished he hadn/t taken. &avid !ecker suddenl realized he was going to church.

Chapter 90
The 1r pto sirens were blaring. -trathmore had no idea how long -usan had been gone. .e sat alone in the shadows, the drone of T<A7-,T< calling to him. %oure a sur.i.or youre a sur.i.or. 4es, he thought. I/m a survivor"but survival is nothing without honor. I/d rather die than live in the shadow of disgrace. And disgrace was what was waiting for him. .e had kept information from the director. .e had sent a virus into the nation/s most secure computer. There was no doubt he would be hung out to dr . .is intentions had been patriotic, but nothing had gone as he/d planned. There had been death and treacher . There would be trials, accusations, public outrage. .e had served his countr with honor and integrit for so man ears, he couldn/t allow it to end this wa . I/m a survivor, he thought. %oure a !iar, his own thoughts replied. It was true. .e $as a liar. There were people he hadn/t been honest with. -usan $letcher was one of them. There were so man things he hadn/t told her"things he was now desperatel ashamed of. $or ears she/d been his illusion, his living fantas . .e dreamed of her at night; he cried out for her in his sleep. .e couldn/t help it. -he was as brilliant and as beautiful as an woman he could imagine. .is wife had tried to be patient, but when she finall met -usan, she immediatel lost hope. !ev -trathmore never blamed her husband for his feelings. -he tried to endure the pain as

long as possible, but recentl it had become too much. -he/d told him their marriage was ending; another woman/s shadow was no place to spend the rest of her life. 6raduall the sirens lifted -trathmore from his daze. .is anal tical powers searched for an wa out. .is mind reluctantl confirmed what his heart had suspected. There was onl one true escape, onl one solution. -trathmore gazed down at the ke board and began t ping. .e didn/t bother to turn the monitor so he could see it. .is fingers pecked out the words slowl and decisivel . &earest friends, I am taking m life toda 5 This wa , no one would ever wonder. There would be no ;uestions. There would be no accusations. .e would spell out for the world what had happened. *an had died5 but there was still one life to take.

Chapter 91
In a cathedral, it is alwa s night. The warmth of the da turns to damp coolness. The traffic is silenced behind thick granite walls. 7o number of candelabras can illuminate the vast darkness overhead. -hadows fall ever where. There/s onl the stained glass, high above, filtering the ugliness of the outside world into ra s of muted reds and blues. The -eville 1athedral, like all great cathedrals of Europe, is laid out in the shape of a cross. The sanctuar and altar are located 0ust above the midpoint and open downward onto the main sanctuar . (ooden pews fill the vertical a3is, a staggering @@F ards from the altar to the base of the cross. To the left and right of the altar, the transept of the cross houses confessionals, sacred tombs, and additional seating. !ecker found himself wedged in the middle of a long pew about halfwa back. #verhead, in the dizz ing empt space, a silver censer the size of a refrigerator swung enormous arcs on a fra ed rope, leaving a trail of frankincense. The bells of the 6iralda kept ringing, sending low rumbling shock waves through the stone. !ecker lowered his gaze to the gilded wall behind the altar. .e had a lot to be thankful for. .e was breathing. .e was alive. It was a miracle. As the priest prepared to give the opening pra er, !ecker checked his side. There was a red stain on his shirt, but the bleeding had stopped. The wound was small, more of a laceration than a puncture. !ecker tucked his shirt back in and craned his neck. !ehind him, the doors were cranking shut. .e knew if he/d been followed, he was now trapped. The -eville 1athedral had a single functional entrance, a design popularized in the da s when churches were used as fortresses, a safe haven against *oorish invasion. (ith a single entrance, there was onl one door to barricade. 7ow the single entrance had another function"it ensured all tourists entering the cathedral had purchased a ticket. The twent %two%foot%high, gilded doors slammed with a decisive crash. !ecker was sealed in the house of 6od. .e closed his e es and slid low in his pew. .e was the onl one in the building not dressed in black. -omewhere voices began to chant. *** Toward the back of the church, a figure moved slowl up the side aisle, keeping to the shadows. .e had slipped in 0ust before the doors closed. .e smiled to himself. The hunt was getting interesting. +e &er is here 8 an fee! it. .e moved methodicall , one row at a time. #verhead the frankincense decanter swung its long, laz arcs. A fine p!a e to die, .ulohot thought. 8 hope 8 do as $e!!. ***

!ecker knelt on the cold cathedral floor and ducked his head out of sight. The man seated ne3t to him glared down"it was most irregular behavior in the house of 6od. 'Enfermo,+ !ecker apologized. '-ick.+ !ecker knew he had to sta low. .e had glimpsed a familiar silhouette moving up the side aisle. 8ts him4 <es here4 &espite being in the middle of an enormous congregation, !ecker feared he was an eas target"his khaki blazer was like a roadside flare in the crowd of black. .e considered removing it, but the white o3ford shirt underneath was no better. Instead he huddled lower. The man beside him frowned. 'Turista.+ .e grunted. Then he whispered, half sarcasticall , ',lamo un mOdico) -hall I call a doctor)+ !ecker looked up at the old man/s mole%ridden face. '7o, gracias. Esto bien.+ The man gave him an angr look. 'Pues siOntate2 Then sit down2+ There were scattered shushes around them, and the old man bit his tongue and faced front. !ecker closed his e es and huddled lower, wondering how long the service would last. !ecker, raised Protestant, had alwa s had the impression 1atholics were long%winded. .e pra ed it was true"as soon as the service ended, he would be forced to stand and let the others out. In khaki he was dead. !ecker knew he had no choice at the moment. .e simpl knelt there on the cold stone floor of the great cathedral. Eventuall , the old man lost interest. The congregation was standing now, singing a h mn. !ecker sta ed down. .is legs were starting to cramp. There was no room to stretch them. Patien e, he thought. Patien e. .e closed his e es and took a deep breath. It felt like onl minutes later that !ecker felt someone kicking him. .e looked up. The mole%faced man was standing to his right, waiting impatientl to leave the pew. !ecker panicked. <e $ants to !ea.e a!ready6 8!! ha.e to stand up4 !ecker motioned for the man to step over him. The man could barel control his anger. .e grabbed the tails of his black blazer, pulled them down in a huff, and leaned back to reveal the entire row of people waiting to leave. !ecker looked left and saw that the woman who had been seated there was gone. The length of pew to his left was empt all the wa to the center aisle. The service can/t be over2 It/s impossible2 (e 0ust got here2 !ut when !ecker saw the altar bo at the end of the row and the two single%file lines moving up the center aisle toward the altar, he knew what was happening. 1ommunion. .e groaned. The damn -paniards do it first2

Chapter 92
-usan climbed down the ladder into the sublevels. Thick steam was now boiling up around T<A7-,T</s hull. The catwalks were wet with condensation. -he almost fell, her flats providing ver little traction. -he wondered how much longer T<A7-,T< would survive. The sirens continued their intermittent warning. The emergenc lights spun in two%second intervals. Three stories below, the au3 generators shook in a ta3ed whine. -usan knew somewhere at the bottom in the fogg dimness there was a circuit breaker. -he sensed time was running out. *** Dpstairs, -trathmore held the !eretta in his hand. .e reread his note and laid it on the floor of the room where he was standing. (hat he was about to do was a cowardl act, there was no doubt. 8m a sur.i.or, he thought. .e thought of the virus in the 7-A databank, he thought of &avid !ecker in -pain, he thought of his plans for a back door. .e had told so man lies. .e was guilt of so much. .e knew this was the onl wa to avoid accountabilit 5 the onl wa to avoid the shame. 1arefull he aimed the gun. Then he closed his e es and pulled the trigger.

*** -usan had onl descended si3 flights when she heard the muffled shot. It was far off, barel audible over the generators. -he had never heard a gunshot e3cept on television, but she had no doubt what it was. -he stopped short, the sound resounding in her ears. In a wave of horror, she feared the worst. -he pictured the commander/s dreams"the back door in &igital $ortress, the incredible coup it would have been. -he pictured the virus in the databank, his failing marriage, that eerie nod he had given her. .er footing faltered. -he spun on the landing, grappling for the banister. 9ommander4 #o4 -usan was momentaril frozen, her mind blank. The echo of the gunshot seemed to drown out the chaos around her. .er mind told her to keep on going, but her legs refused. 9ommander4 An instant later she found herself stumbling back up the stairs, entirel forgetting the danger around her. -he ran blindl , slipping on the slick metal. Above her the humidit fell like rain. (hen she reached the ladder and began climbing, she felt herself lifted from below b a tremendous surge of steam that practicall 0ettisoned her through the trapdoor. -he rolled onto the 1r pto floor and felt the cool air wash over her. .er white blouse clung to her bod , soaked through. It was dark. -usan paused, tr ing to get her bearings. The sound of the gunshot was on endless loop in her head. .ot steam billowed up through the trapdoor like gases from a volcano about to e3plode. -usan cursed herself for leaving the !eretta with -trathmore. -he had left it with him, hadn/t she) )r $as it in #ode H6 As her e es ad0usted to the dark, she glanced toward the gaping hole in the 7ode F wall. The glow from the monitors was faint, but in the distance she could see .ale l ing motionless on the floor where she/d left him. There was no sign of -trathmore. Terrified of what she/d find, she turned toward the commander/s office. !ut as she began to move, something registered as strange. -he backpedaled a few steps and peered into 7ode F again. In the soft light she could see .ale/s arm. It was not at his side. .e was no longer tied like a mumm . .is arm was up over his head. .e was sprawled backward on the floor. .ad he gotten free) There was no movement. .ale was deathl still. -usan gazed up at -trathmore/s workstation perched high on the wall. '1ommander)+ -ilence. Tentativel she moved toward 7ode F. There was an ob0ect in .ale/s hand. It glimmered in the light of the monitors. -usan moved closer5 closer. -uddenl she could see what .ale was holding. It was the !eretta. -usan gasped. $ollowing the arch of .ale/s arm, her e es moved to his face. (hat she saw was grotes;ue. .alf of 6reg .ale/s head was soaked in blood. The dark stain had spread out across the carpet. )h my 'od4 -usan staggered backward. It wasn/t the commander/s shot she/d heard, it was <a!es4 As if in a trance, -usan moved toward the bod . Apparentl , .ale had managed to free himself. The printer cables were piled on the floor beside him. 8 must ha.e !eft the gun on the ou h, she thought. The blood flowing through the hole in his skull looked black in the bluish light. #n the floor beside .ale was a piece of paper. -usan went over unsteadil , and picked it up. It was a letter. &earest friends, I am taking m life toda in penance for the following sins5 In utter disbelief, -usan stared at the suicide note in her hand. -he read slowl . It was surreal" so unlike .ale"a laundr list of crimes. .e was admitting to ever thing"figuring out that 7&AG#TA was a hoa3, hiring a mercenar to kill Ensei Tankado and take the ring, pushing Phil 1hartrukian, planning to sell &igital $ortress.

-usan reached the final line. -he was not prepared for what she read. The letter/s final words delivered a numbing blow. Above all, I/m trul sorr about &avid !ecker. $orgive me, I was blinded b ambition. As -usan stood trembling over .ale/s bod , the sound of running footsteps approached behind her. In slow motion, she turned. -trathmore appeared in the broken window, pale and out of breath. .e stared down at .ale/s bod in apparent shock. '#h m 6od2+ he said. '(hat happened)+

Chapter 93
1ommunion. .ulohot spotted !ecker immediatel . The khaki blazer was impossible to miss, particularl with the small bloodstain on one side. The 0acket was moving up the center aisle in a sea of black. <e must not &no$ 8m here. .ulohot smiled. <es a dead man. .e fanned the tin metal contacts on his fingertips, eager to tell his American contact the good news. Soon, he thought, .ery soon. ,ike a predator moving downwind, .ulohot moved to the back of the church. Then he began his approach"straight up the center aisle. .ulohot was in no mood to track !ecker through the crowds leaving the church. .is ;uarr was trapped, a fortunate turn of events. .ulohot 0ust needed a wa to eliminate him ;uietl . .is silencer, the best mone could bu , emitted no more than a tin spitting cough. That would be fine. As .ulohot closed on the khaki blazer, he was unaware of the ;uiet murmurs coming from those he was passing. The congregation could understand this man/s e3citement to receive the blessing of 6od, but nevertheless, there were strict rules of protocol"two lines, single file. .ulohot kept moving. .e was closing ;uickl . .e thumbed the revolver in his 0acket pocket. The moment had arrived. &avid !ecker had been e3ceptionall fortunate so far; there was no need to tempt fortune an further. The khaki blazer was onl ten people ahead, facing front, head down. .ulohot rehearsed the kill in his mind. The image was clear"cutting in behind !ecker, keeping the gun low and out of sight, firing two shots into !ecker/s back, !ecker slumping, .ulohot catching him and helping him into a pew like a concerned friend. Then .ulohot would move ;uickl to the back of the church as if going for help. In the confusion, he would disappear before an one knew what had happened. $ive people. $our. Three. .ulohot fingered the gun in his pocket, keeping it low. .e would fire from hip level upward into !ecker/s spine. That wa the bullet would hit either the spine or a lung before finding the heart. Even if the bullet missed the heart, !ecker would die. A punctured lung was fatal, ma be not in more medicall advanced parts of the world, but in Spain, it was fatal. T$o peop!e one. And then .ulohot was there. ,ike a dancer performing a well%rehearsed move, he turned to his right. .e laid his hand on the shoulder of the khaki blazer, aimed the gun, and5 fired. Two muffled spats. Instantl the bod was rigid. Then it was falling. .ulohot caught his victim under the armpits. In a single motion, he swung the bod into a pew before an bloodstains spread across his back. 7earb , people turned. .ulohot paid no heed"he would be gone in an instant. .e groped the man/s lifeless fingers for the ring. 7othing. .e felt again. The fingers were bare. .ulohot spun the man around angril . The horror was instantaneous. The face was not &avid !ecker/s. <afael de la *aza, a banker from the suburbs of -eville, had died almost instantl . .e was still clutching the >9,999 pesetas the strange American had paid him for a cheap black blazer.

Chapter 94

*idge *ilken stood fuming at the water cooler near the entrance to the conference room. (hat the he!! is Fontaine doing6 -he crumpled her paper cup and threw it forcefull into the trash can. Theres something happening in 9rypto4 8 an fee! it4 *idge knew there was onl one wa to prove herself right. -he/d go check out 1r pto herself"track down ?abba if need be. -he spun on her heel and headed for the door. !rinkerhoff appeared out of nowhere, blocking her wa . '(here are ou headed)+ '.ome2+ *idge lied. !rinkerhoff refused to let her pass. *idge glared. '$ontaine told ou not to let me out, didn/t he)+ !rinkerhoff looked awa . '1had, I/m telling ou, there/s something happening in 1r pto"something big. I don/t know wh $ontaine/s pla ing dumb, but T<A7-,T</s in trouble. -omething is not right down there tonight2+ '*idge,+ he soothed, walking past her toward the curtained conference room windows, 'let/s let the director handle it.+ *idge/s gaze sharpened. '&o ou have an idea what happens to T<A7-,T< if the cooling s stem fails)+ !rinkerhoff shrugged and approached the window. 'Power/s probabl back on%line b now an wa .+ .e pulled apart the curtains and looked. '-till dark)+ *idge asked. !ut !rinkerhoff did not repl . .e was spellbound. The scene below in the 1r pto dome was unimaginable. The entire glass cupola was filled with spinning lights, flashing strobes, and swirling steam. !rinkerhoff stood transfi3ed, teetering light%headed against the glass. Then, in a frenz of panic, he raced out. '&irector2 Dire tor47

Chapter 95
The blood of 1hrist5 the cup of salvation5 People gathered around the slumped bod in the pew. #verhead, the frankincense swung its peaceful arcs. .ulohot wheeled wildl in the center aisle and scanned the church. <es got to be here4 .e spun back toward the altar. Thirt rows ahead, hol communion was proceeding uninterrupted. Padre 6ustaphes .errera, the head chalice bearer, glanced curiousl at the ;uiet commotion in one of the center pews; he was not concerned. -ometimes some of the older folks were overcome b the hol spirit and passed out. A little air usuall did the trick. *eanwhile, .ulohot was searching franticall . !ecker was nowhere in sight. A hundred or so people were kneeling at the long altar receiving communion. .ulohot wondered if !ecker was one of them. .e scanned their backs. .e was prepared to shoot from fift ards awa and make a dash for it. *** El cuerpo de ?esus, el pan del cielo. The oung priest serving !ecker communion gave him a disapproving stare. .e could understand the stranger/s eagerness to receive communion, but it was no e3cuse to cut inline. !ecker bowed his head and chewed the wafer as best he could. .e sensed something was happening behind him, some sort of disturbance. .e thought of the man from whom he/d bought the 0acket and hoped he had listened to his warning and not taken !ecker/s in e3change. .e started to turn and look, but he feared the wire%rim glasses would be staring back. .e crouched in hopes his black 0acket was covering the back of his khaki pants. It was not.

The chalice was coming ;uickl from his right. People were alread swallowing their wine, crossing themselves, and standing to leave. S!o$ do$n4 !ecker was in no hurr to leave the altar. !ut with two thousand people waiting for communion and onl eight priests serving, it was considered bad form to linger over a sip of wine. *** The chalice was 0ust to the right of !ecker when .ulohot spotted the mismatched khaki pants. 'EstTs a muerto,+ he hissed softl . '4ou/re alread dead.+ .ulohot moved up the center aisle. The time for subtlet had passed. Two shots in the back, and he would grab the ring and run. The biggest ta3i stand in -eville was half a block awa on *ateus 6ago. .e reached for his weapon. AdiSs, -eWor !ecker5 *** ,a sangre de 1risto, la copa de la salvaciSn. The thick scent of red wine filled !ecker/s nostrils as Padre .errera lowered the hand%polished, silver chalice. 3itt!e ear!y for drin&ing, !ecker thought as he leaned forward. !ut as the silver goblet dropped past e e level, there was a blur of movement. A figure, coming fast, his shape warped in the reflection of the cup. !ecker saw a flash of metal, a weapon being drawn. Instantl , unconsciousl , like a runner from a starting block at the sound of a gun, !ecker was vaulting forward. The priest fell back in horror as the chalice sailed through the air, and red wine rained down on white marble. Priests and altar bo s went scattering as !ecker dove over the communion rail. A silencer coughed out a single shot. !ecker landed hard, and the shot e3ploded in the marble floor beside him. An instant later he was tumbling down three granite stairs into the valle, a narrow passagewa through which the clerg entered, allowing them to rise onto the altar as if b divine grace. At the bottom of the steps, he stumbled and dove. !ecker felt himself sliding out of control across the slick polished stone. A dagger of pain shot though his gut as he landed on his side. A moment later he was stumbling through a curtained entr wa and down a set of wooden stairs. Pain. !ecker was running, through a dressing room. It was dark. There were screams from the altar. ,oud footsteps in pursuit. !ecker burst through a set of double doors and stumbled into some sort of stud . It was dark, furnished with rich #rientals and polished mahogan . #n the far wall was a life%size crucifi3. !ecker staggered to a stop. &ead end. .e was at the tip of the cross. .e could hear .ulohot closing fast. !ecker stared at the crucifi3 and cursed his bad luck. 5'oddamn it47 he screamed. There was the sudden sound of breaking glass to !ecker/s left. .e wheeled. A man in red robes gasped and turned to e e !ecker in horror. ,ike a cat caught with a canar , the hol man wiped his mouth and tried to hide the broken bottle of hol communion wine at his feet. 5Sa!ida47 !ecker demanded. '-alida2+ ,et me out2 1ardinal 6uerra reacted on instinct. A demon had entered his sacred chambers screaming for deliverance from the house of 6od. 6uerra would grant him that wish"immediatel . The demon had entered at a most inopportune moment. Pale, the cardinal pointed to a curtain on the wall to his left. .idden behind the curtain was a door. .e/d installed it three ears ago. It led directl to the court ard outside. The cardinal had grown tired of e3iting the church through the front door like a common sinner.

Chapter 96

-usan was wet and shivering, huddled on the 7ode F couch. -trathmore draped his suit coat over her shoulders. .ale/s bod la a few ards awa . The sirens blared. ,ike ice thawing on a frozen pond, T<A7-,T</s hull let out a sharp crack. 'I/m going down to kill power,+ -trathmore said, la ing a reassuring hand on her shoulder. 'I/ll be right back.+ -usan stared absentl after the commander as he dashed across the 1r pto floor. .e was no longer the catatonic man she/d seen ten minutes before. 1ommander Trevor -trathmore was back" logical, controlled, doing whatever was necessar to get the 0ob done. The final words of .ale/s suicide note ran through her mind like a train out of controlC Abo.e a!!, 8m tru!y sorry about Da.id +e &er. Forgi.e me, 8 $as b!inded by ambition. -usan $letcher/s nightmare had 0ust been confirmed. &avid was in danger5 or worse. *a be it was alread too late. 8m tru!y sorry about Da.id +e &er. -he stared at the note. .ale hadn/t even signed it"he/d 0ust t ped his name at the bottomC 'reg <a!e. .e/d poured out his guts, pressed print, and then shot himself"0ust like that. .ale had sworn he/d never go back to prison; he/d kept his vow"he/d chosen death instead. '&avid5+ -he sobbed. Da.id4 *** At that moment, ten feet below the 1r pto floor, 1ommander -trathmore stepped off the ladder onto the first landing. It had been a da of fiascoes. (hat had started out as a patriotic mission had swerved wildl out of control. The commander had been forced to make impossible decisions, commit horrific acts"acts he/d never imagined himself capable of. It was a solution2 It was the onl damn solution2 There was dut to think ofC countr and honor. -trathmore knew there was still time. .e could shut down T<A7-,T<. .e could use the ring to save the countr /s most valuable databank. %es, he thought, there $as sti!! time. -trathmore looked out over the disaster around him. The overhead sprinklers were on. T<A7-,T< was groaning. The sirens blared. The spinning lights looked like helicopters closing in through dense fog. (ith ever step, all he could see was 6reg .ale"the oung cr ptographer gazing up, his e es pleading, and then, the shot. .ale/s death was for countr 5 for honor. The 7-A could not afford another scandal. -trathmore needed a scapegoat. !esides, 6reg .ale was a disaster waiting to happen. *** -trathmore/s thoughts were 0arred free b the sound of his cellular. It was barel audible over the sirens and hissing fumes. .e snatched it off his belt without breaking stride. '-peak.+ '(here/s m pass%ke )+ a familiar voice demanded. '(ho is this)+ -trathmore elled over the din. 'It/s 7umataka2+ the angr voice bellowed back. '4ou promised me a pass%ke 2+ -trathmore kept moving. 'I want &igital $ortress2+ 7umataka hissed. 'There is no &igital $ortress2+ -trathmore shot back. '(hat)+ 'There is no unbreakable algorithm2+ '#f course there is2 I/ve seen it on the Internet2 * people have been tr ing to unlock it for da s2+ 'It/s an encr pted virus, ou fool"and ou/re damn luck ou can/t open it2+

'!ut"+ 'The deal is off2+ -trathmore elled. 'I/m not 7orth &akota. There is no 7orth &akota2 $orget I ever mentioned it2+ .e clamped the cellular shut, turned off the ringer, and rammed it back on his belt. There would be no more interruptions. *** Twelve thousand miles awa , Tokugen 7umataka stood stunned at his plate%glass window. .is Dmami cigar hung limpl in his mouth. The deal of his lifetime had 0ust disintegrated before his e es. *** -trathmore kept descending. The dea! is off. 7umatech 1orp. would never get the unbreakable algorithm5 and the 7-A would never get its back door. -trathmore/s dream had been a long time in the planning"he/d chosen 7umatech carefull . 7umatech was wealth , a likel winner of the pass%ke auction. 7o one would think twice if it ended up with the ke . 1onvenientl there was no compan less likel to be suspected of consorting with the D.-. government. Tokugen 7umataka was old%world ?apan"death before dishonor. .e hated Americans. .e hated their food, he hated their customs, and most of all, he hated their grip on the world/s software market. *** -trathmore/s vision had been bold"a world encr ption standard with a back door for the 7-A. .e/d longed to share his dream with -usan, to carr it out with her b his side, but he knew he could not. Even though Ensei Tankado/s death would save thousands of lives in the future, -usan would never have agreed; she was a pacifist. 8m a pa ifist too, thought -trathmore, 8 ?ust dont ha.e the !uxury of a ting !i&e one. There had never been an doubt in the commander/s mind who would kill Tankado. Tankado was in -pain"and -pain meant .ulohot. The fort %two% ear%old Portuguese mercenar was one of the commander/s favorite pros. .e/d been working for the 7-A for ears. !orn and raised in ,isbon, .ulohot had done work for the 7-A all over Europe. 7ever once had his kills been traced back to $ort *eade. The onl catch was that .ulohot was deaf; telephone communication was impossible. <ecentl -trathmore had arranged for .ulohot to receive the 7-A/s newest to , the *onocle computer. -trathmore bought himself a -k Pager and programmed it to the same fre;uenc . $rom that moment on, his communication with .ulohot was not onl instantaneous but also entirel untraceable. The first message -trathmore had sent .ulohot left little room for misunderstanding. The had alread discussed it. Gill Ensei Tankado. #btain pass%ke . -trathmore never asked how .ulohot worked his magic, but somehow he had done it again. Ensei Tankado was dead, and the authorities were convinced it was a heart attack. A te3tbook kill" e3cept for one thing. .ulohot had mis0udged the location. Apparentl Tankado d ing in a public place was a necessar part of the illusion. !ut une3pectedl , the public had appeared too soon. .ulohot was forced into hiding before he could search the bod for the pass%ke . (hen the dust settled, Tankado/s bod was in the hands of -eville/s coroner. -trathmore was furious. .ulohot had blown a mission for the first time ever"and he/d picked an inauspicious time to do it. 6etting Tankado/s pass%ke was critical, but -trathmore knew that sending a deaf assassin into the -eville morgue was a suicide mission. .e had pondered his other

options. A second scheme began to materialize. -trathmore suddenl saw a chance to win on two fronts"a chance to realize two dreams instead of 0ust one. At si3%thirt that morning, he had called &avid !ecker.

Chapter 97
$ontaine burst into the conference room at a full sprint. !rinkerhoff and *idge were close at his heels. ',ook2+ *idge choked, motioning franticall to the window. $ontaine looked out the window at the strobes in the 1r pto dome. .is e es went wide. This was definitel not part of the plan. !rinkerhoff sputtered. 'It/s a goddamn disco down there2+ $ontaine stared out, tr ing to make sense of it. In the few ears T<A7-,T< had been operational, it had never done this. 8ts o.erheating, he thought. .e wondered wh the hell -trathmore hadn/t shut it down. It took $ontaine onl an instant to make up his mind. .e snatched an interoffice phone off the conference table and punched the e3tension for 1r pto. The receiver began beeping as if the e3tension were out of order. $ontaine slammed down the receiver. '&amn it2+ .e immediatel picked up again and dialed -trathmore/s private cellular line. This time the line began to ring. -i3 rings went b . !rinkerhoff and *idge watched as $ontaine paced the length of his phone cable like a tiger on a chain. After a full minute, $ontaine was crimson with rage. .e slammed down the receiver again. 'Dnbelievable2+ he bellowed. '1r pto/s about to blow, and -trathmore won/t answer his goddamn phone2+

Chapter 98
.ulohot burst out of 1ardinal 6uerra/s chambers into the blinding morning sun. .e shielded his e es and cursed. .e was standing outside the cathedral in a small patio, bordered b a high stone wall, the west face of the 6iralda tower, and two wrought%iron fences. The gate was open. #utside the gate was the s;uare. It was empt . The walls of -anta 1ruz were in the distance. There was no wa !ecker could have made it so far so ;uickl . .ulohot turned and scanned the patio. <es in here. <e must be4 The patio, ?ardin de los 7aran0os, was famous in -eville for its twent blossoming orange trees. The trees were renowned in -eville as the birthplace of English marmalade. An eighteenth%centur English trader had purchased three dozen bushels of oranges from the -eville church and taken them back to ,ondon onl to find the fruit inedibl bitter. .e tried to make 0am from the rinds and ended up having to add pounds of sugar 0ust to make it palatable. #range marmalade had been born. .ulohot moved forward through the grove, gun leveled. The trees were old, and the foliage had moved high on their trunks. Their lowest branches were unreachable, and the thin bases provided no cover. .ulohot ;uickl saw the patio was empt . .e looked straight up. The 6iralda. The entrance to the 6iralda/s spiral staircase was cordoned off b a rope and small wooden sign. The rope hung motionless. .ulohot/s e es climbed the L@K%foot tower and immediatel knew it was a ridiculous thought. There was no wa !ecker would have been that stupid. The single staircase wound straight up to a s;uare stone cubicle. There were narrow slits in the wall for viewing, but there was no wa out. ***

&avid !ecker climbed the last of the steep stairs and staggered breathless into a tin stone cubicle. There were high walls all around him and narrow slits in the perimeter. 7o e3it. $ate had done !ecker no favors this morning. As he/d dashed from the cathedral into the open court ard, his 0acket had caught on the door. The fabric had stopped him mid stride and swung him hard left before tearing. !ecker was suddenl stumbling off balance into the blinding sun. (hen he/d looked up, he was heading straight for a staircase. .e/d 0umped over the rope and dashed up. ! the time he realized where it led, it was too late. 7ow he stood in the confined cell and caught his breath. .is side burned. 7arrow slats of morning sun streamed through the openings in the wall. .e looked out. The man in the wire%rim glasses was far below, his back to !ecker, staring out at the plaza. !ecker shifted his bod in front of the crack for a better view. 9ross the p!a/a, he willed him. *** The shadow of the 6iralda la across the s;uare like a giant felled se;uoia. .ulohot stared the length of it. At the far end, three slits of light cut through the tower/s viewing apertures and fell in crisp rectangles on the cobblestone below. #ne of those rectangles had 0ust been blotted out b the shadow of a man. (ithout so much as a glance toward the top of the tower, .ulohot spun and dashed toward the 6iralda stairs.

Chapter 99
$ontaine pounded his fist into his hand. .e paced the conference room and stared out at the spinning 1r pto lights. 'Abort2 6oddamn it2 Abort2+ *idge appeared in the doorwa waving a fresh readout. '&irector2 -trathmore ant abort2+ '(hat2+ !rinkerhoff and $ontaine gasped in unison. '.e tried, sir2+ *idge held up the report. '$our times alread 2 T<A7-,T</s locked in some sort of endless loop.+ $ontaine spun and stared back out the window. '?esus 1hrist2+ The conference room phone rang sharpl . The director threw up his arms. 'It/s got to be -trathmore2 About goddamn time2+ !rinkerhoff scooped up the phone. '&irector/s office.+ $ontaine held out his hand for the receiver. !rinkerhoff looked uneas and turned to *idge. 'It/s ?abba. .e wants you.7 The director swung his gaze over to *idge, who was alread crossing the room. -he activated the speaker phone. '6o ahead, ?abba.+ ?abba/s metallic voice boomed into the room. '*idge, I/m in the main databank. (e/re showing some strange stuff down here. I was wondering if"+ '&ammit, ?abba2+ *idge came unglued. 'That/s what I/ve been tr ing to tell ou2+ 'It could be nothing,+ ?abba hedged, 'but"+ '-top sa ing that2 It/s not nothing2 (hatever/s going on down there, take it seriousl , .ery seriousl . * data isn/t fried"never has been, never will.+ -he started to hang up and then added, '#h, and ?abba) ?ust so there aren/t an surprises5 -trathmore b passed 6auntlet.+

Chapter 100
.ulohot took the 6iralda stairs three at a time. The onl light in the spiral passage was from small open%air windows ever @J9 degrees. <es trapped4 Da.id +e &er $i!! die4 .ulohot circled upward, gun drawn. .e kept to the outside wall in case !ecker decided to attack from above. The iron candle poles on each landing would make good weapons if !ecker decided to use one. !ut b

sta ing wide, .ulohot would be able to spot him in time. .ulohot/s gun had a range significantl longer than a five%foot candle pole. .ulohot moved ;uickl but carefull . The stairs were steep; tourists had died here. This was not America"no safet signs, no handrails, no insurance disclaimers. This was -pain. If ou were stupid enough to fall, it was our own damn fault, regardless of who built the stairs. .ulohot paused at one of the shoulder%high openings and glanced out. .e was on the north face and, from the looks of things, about halfwa up. The opening to the viewing platform was visible around the corner. The staircase to the top was empt . &avid !ecker had not challenged him. .ulohot realized ma be !ecker had not seen him enter the tower. That meant the element of surprise was on .ulohot/s side as well"not that he/d need it. .ulohot held all the cards. Even the la out of the tower was in his favor; the staircase met the viewing platform in the southwest corner".ulohot would have a clear line of fire to ever point of the cell with no possibilit that !ecker could get behind him. And to top things off, .ulohot would be moving out of the dark into the light. A &i!!ing box, he mused. .ulohot measured the distance to the doorwa . -even steps. .e practiced the kill in his mind. If he sta ed right as he approached the opening, he would be able to see the leftmost corner of the platform before he reached it. If !ecker was there, .ulohot would fire. If not, he would shift inside and enter moving east, facing the right corner, the onl place remaining that !ecker could be. .e smiled.
-D!?E1TC &A:I& !E1GE<"TE<*I7ATE&

The time had come. .e checked his weapon. (ith a violent surge, .ulohot dashed up. The platform swung into view. The left corner was empt . As rehearsed, .ulohot shifted inside and burst through the opening facing right. .e fired into the corner. The bullet ricocheted back off the bare wall and barel missed him. .ulohot wheeled wildl and let out a muted scream. There was no one there. &avid !ecker had vanished. *** Three flights below, suspended F=> feet over the ?ardin de los 7aran0os, &avid !ecker hung on the outside of the 6iralda like a man doing chin%ups on a window ledge. As .ulohot had been racing up the staircase, !ecker had descended three flights and lowered himself out one of the openings. .e/d dropped out of sight 0ust in time. The killer had run right b him. .e/d been in too much of a hurr to notice the white knuckles grasping the window ledge. .anging outside the window, !ecker thanked 6od that his dail s;uash routine involved twent minutes on the 7autilus machine to develop his biceps for a harder overhead serve. Dnfortunatel , despite his strong arms, !ecker was now having trouble pulling himself back in. .is shoulders burned. .is side felt as if it were tearing open. The rough%cut stone ledge provided little grip, grating into his fingertips like broken glass. !ecker knew it was onl a matter of seconds before his assailant would come running down from above. $rom the higher ground, the killer would undoubtedl see !ecker/s fingers on the ledge. !ecker closed his e es and pulled. .e knew he would need a miracle to escape death. .is fingers were losing their leverage. .e glanced down, past his dangling legs. The drop was the length of a football field to the orange trees below. Dnsurvivable. The pain in his side was getting worse. $ootsteps now thundered above him, loud leaping footsteps rushing down the stairs. !ecker closed his e es. It was now or never. .e gritted his teeth and pulled.

The stone tore against the skin on his wrists as he anked himself upward. The footsteps were coming fast. !ecker grappled at the inside of the opening, tr ing to secure his hold. .e kicked his feet. .is bod felt like lead, as if someone had a rope tied to his legs and were pulling him down. .e fought it. .e surged up onto his elbows. .e was in plain view now, his head half through the window like a man in a guillotine. .e wriggled his legs, kicking himself into the opening. .e was halfwa through. .is torso now hung into the stairwell. The footsteps were close. !ecker grabbed the sides of the opening and in a single motion launched his bod through. .e hit the staircase hard. *** .ulohot sensed !ecker/s bod hit the floor 0ust below him. .e leapt forward, gun leveled. A window spun into view. This is it4 .ulohot moved to the outside wall and aimed down the staircase. !ecker/s legs dashed out of sight 0ust around the curve. .ulohot fired in frustration. The bullet ricocheted down the stairwell. As .ulohot dashed down the stairs after his pre , he kept to the outside wall for the widest angle view. As the staircase revolved into view before him, it seemed !ecker was alwa s @J9 degrees ahead of him, 0ust out of sight. !ecker had taken the inside track, cutting off the angle and leaping four or five stairs at a time. .ulohot sta ed with him. It would take onl a single shot. .ulohot was gaining. .e knew that even if !ecker made the bottom, there was nowhere to run; .ulohot could shoot him in the back as he crossed the open patio. The desperate race spiraled downward. .ulohot moved inside to the faster track. .e sensed he was gaining. .e could see !ecker/s shadow ever time the passed an opening. &own. &own. -piraling. It seemed that !ecker was alwa s 0ust around the corner. .ulohot kept one e e on his shadow and one e e on the stairs. -uddenl it appeared to .ulohot that !ecker/s shadow had stumbled. It made an erratic lurch left and then seemed to spin in midair and sail back toward the center of the stairwell. .ulohot leapt forward. 8.e got him4 #n the stairs in front of .ulohot, there was a flash of steel. It 0abbed into the air from around the corner. It thrust forward like a fencer/s foil at ankle level. .ulohot tried to shift left, but it was too late. The ob0ect was between his ankles. .is back foot came forward, caught it hard, and the post slammed across his shin. .ulohot/s arms went out for support but found onl empt air. .e was abruptl airborne, turning on his side. As .ulohot sailed downward, he passed over &avid !ecker, prone on his stomach, arms outstretched. The candle pole in his hands was now caught up in .ulohot/s legs as he spun downward. .ulohot crashed into the outside wall before he hit the staircase. (hen he finall found the floor, he was tumbling. .is gun clattered to the floor. .ulohot/s bod kept going, head over heels. .e spiraled five complete F89%degree rotations before he rolled to a stop. Twelve more steps, and he would have tumbled out onto the patio.

Chapter 101
&avid !ecker had never held a gun, but he was holding one now. .ulohot/s bod was twisted and mangled in the darkness of the 6iralda staircase. !ecker pressed the barrel of the gun against his assailant/s temple and carefull knelt down. #ne twitch and !ecker would fire. !ut there was no twitch. .ulohot was dead. !ecker dropped the gun and collapsed on the stairs. $or the first time in ages he felt tears well up. .e fought them. .e knew there would be time for emotion later; now it was time to go home. !ecker tried to stand, but he was too tired to move. .e sat a long while, e3hausted, on the stone staircase. Absentl , he studied the twisted bod before him. The killer/s e es began to glaze over, gazing out at nothing in particular. -omehow, his glasses were still intact. The were odd glasses,

!ecker thought, with a wire protruding from behind the earpiece and leading to a pack of some sort on his belt. !ecker was too e3hausted to be curious. As he sat alone in the staircase and collected his thoughts, !ecker shifted his gaze to the ring on his finger. .is vision had cleared somewhat, and he could finall read the inscription. As he had suspected, it was not English. .e stared at the engraving along moment and then frowned. This is $orth &i!!ing for6 *** The morning sun was blinding when !ecker finall stepped out of the 6iralda onto the patio. The pain in his side had subsided, and his vision was returning to normal. .e stood a moment, in a daze, en0o ing the fragrance of the orange blossoms. Then he began moving slowl across the patio. As !ecker strode awa from the tower, a van skidded to a stop nearb . Two men 0umped out. The were oung and dressed in militar fatigues. The advanced on !ecker with the stiff precision of well%tuned machines. '&avid !ecker)+ one demanded. !ecker stopped short, amazed the knew his name. '(ho5 who are ou)+ '1ome with us, please. <ight awa .+ There was something unreal about the encounter"something that made !ecker/s nerve endings start to tingle again. .e found himself backing awa from them. The shorter man gave !ecker an ic stare. 'This wa , *r. !ecker. >ight no$.7 !ecker turned to run. !ut he onl took one step. #ne of the men drew a weapon. There was a shot. A searing lance of pain erupted in !ecker/s chest. It rocketed to his skull. .is fingers went stiff, and !ecker fell. An instant later, there was nothing but blackness.

Chapter 102
-trathmore reached the T<A7-,T< floor and stepped off the catwalk into an inch of water. The giant computer shuddered beside him. .uge droplets of water fell like rain through the swirling mist. The warning horns sounded like thunder. The commander looked across at the failed main generators. Phil 1hartrukian was there, his charred remains spla ed across a set of coolant fins. The scene looked like some sort of perverse .alloween displa . Although -trathmore regretted the man/s death, there was no doubt it had been 'a warranted casualt .+ Phil 1hartrukian had left -trathmore no choice. (hen the - s%-ec came racing up from the depths, screaming about a virus, -trathmore met him on the landing and tried to talk sense to him. !ut 1hartrukian was be ond reason. (e.e got a .irus4 8m a!!ing "abba4 (hen he tried to push past, the commander blocked his wa . The landing was narrow. The struggled. The railing was low. It was ironic, -trathmore thought, that 1hartrukian had been right about the virus all along. The man/s plunge had been chilling"a momentar howl of terror and then silence. !ut it was not half as chilling as the ne3t thing 1ommander -trathmore saw. 6reg .ale was staring up at him from the shadows below, a look of utter horror on his face. It was then that -trathmore knew 6reg .ale would die. T<A7-,T< crackled, and -trathmore turned his attention back to the task at hand. Gill power. The circuit breaker was on the other side of the freon pumps to the left of the bod . -trathmore could see it clearl . All he had to do was pull a lever and the remaining power in 1r pto would die. Then, after a few seconds, he could restart the main generators; all doorwa s and functions would comeback on%line; the freon would start flowing again, and T<A7-,T< would be safe.

!ut as -trathmore slogged toward the breaker, he realized there was one final obstacleC 1hartrukian/s bod was still on the main generator/s cooling fins. Gilling and then restarting the main generator would onl cause another power failure. The bod had to be moved. -trathmore e ed the grotes;ue remains and made his wa over. <eaching up, he grabbed a wrist. The flesh was like -t rofoam. The tissue had been fried. The whole bod was devoid of moisture. The commander closed his e es, tightened his grip around the wrist, and pulled. The bod slid an inch or two. -trathmore pulled harder. The bod slid again. The commander braced himself and pulled with all his might. -uddenl he was tumbling backward. .e landed hard on his backside up against a power casement. -truggling to sit up in the rising water, -trathmore stared down in horror at the ob0ect in his fist. It was 1hartrukian/s forearm. It had broken off at the elbow. *** Dpstairs, -usan continued her wait. -he sat on the 7ode F couch feeling paral zed. .ale la at her feet. -he couldn/t imagine what was taking the commander so long. *inutes passed. -he tried to push &avid from her thoughts, but it was no use. (ith ever blast of the horns, .ale/s words echoed inside her headC 8m tru!y sorry about Da.id +e &er. -usan thought she would lose her mind. -he was about to 0ump up and race onto the 1r pto floor when finall it happened. -trathmore had thrown the switch and killed all power. The silence that engulfed 1r pto was instantaneous. The horns choked off mid blare, and the 7ode F monitors flickered to black. 6reg .ale/s corpse disappeared into the darkness, and -usan instinctivel anked her legs up onto the couch. -he wrapped -trathmore/s suit coat around her. &arkness. -ilence. -he had never heard such ;uiet in 1r pto. There/d alwa s been the low hum of the generators. !ut now there was nothing, onl the great beast heaving and sighing in relief. 1rackling, hissing, slowl cooling down. -usan closed her e es and pra ed for &avid. .er pra er was a simple one"that 6od protect the man she loved. 7ot being a religious woman, -usan had never e3pected to hear a response to her pra er. !ut when there was a sudden shuddering against her chest, she 0olted upright. -he clutched her chest. A moment later she understood. The vibrations she felt were not the hand of 6od at all"the were coming from the commander/s 0acket pocket. .e had set the vibrating silent%ring feature on his -k Pager. -omeone was sending 1ommander -trathmore a message. *** -i3 stories below, -trathmore stood at the circuit breaker. The sublevels of 1r pto were now as dark as the deepest night. .e stood a moment en0o ing the blackness. The water poured down from above. It was a midnight storm. -trathmore tilted his head back and let the warm droplets wash awa his guilt. 8m a sur.i.or. .e knelt and washed the last of 1hartrukian/s flesh from his hands. .is dreams for &igital $ortress had failed. .e could accept that. -usan was all that mattered now. $or the first time in decades, he trul understood that there was more to life than countr and honor. 8 sa rifi ed the best years of my !ife for ountry and honor. +ut $hat about !o.e6 .e had deprived himself for far too long. And for $hat6 To watch some oung professor steal awa his dreams) -trathmore had nurtured -usan. .e had protected her. .e had earned her. And now, at last, he would have her. -usan would seek shelter in his arms when there was nowhere else to turn. -he would come to him helpless, wounded b loss, and in time, he would show her that love heals all. <onor. 9ountry. 3o.e. &avid !ecker was about to die for all three.

Chapter 103
The 1ommander rose through the trapdoor like ,azarus back from the dead. &espite his sogg clothes, his step was light. .e strode toward 7ode F"toward -usan. Toward his future. The 1r pto floor was again bathed in light. $reon was flowing downward through the smoldering T<A7-,T< like o3 genated blood. -trathmore knew it would take a few minutes for the coolant to reach the bottom of the hull and prevent the lowest processors from igniting, but he was certain he/d acted in time. .e e3haled in victor , never suspecting the truth"that it was alread too late. 8m a sur.i.or, he thought. Ignoring the gaping hole in the 7ode F wall, he strode to the electronic doors. The hissed open. .e stepped inside. -usan was standing before him, damp and tousled in his blazer. -he looked like a freshman coed who/d been caught in the rain. .e felt like the senior who/d lent her his varsit sweater. $or the first time in ears, he felt oung. .is dream was coming true. !ut as -trathmore moved closer, he felt he was staring into the e es of a woman he did not recognize. .er gaze was like ice. The softness was gone. -usan $letcher stood rigid, like an immovable statue. The onl perceptible motion were the tears welling in her e es. '-usan)+ A single tear rolled down her ;uivering cheek. '(hat is it)+ the commander pleaded. The puddle of blood beneath .ale/s bod had spread across the carpet like an oil spill. -trathmore glanced uneasil at the corpse, then back at -usan. 9ou!d she possib!y &no$6 There was no wa . -trathmore knew he had covered ever base. '-usan)+ he said, stepping closer. '(hat is it)+ -usan did not move. 'Are ou worried about &avid)+ There was a slight ;uiver in her upper lip. -trathmore stepped closer. .e was going to reach for her, but he hesitated. The sound of &avid/s name had apparentl cracked the dam of grief. -lowl at first"a ;uiver, a tremble. And then a thundering wave of miser seemed to course through her veins. !arel able to control her shuddering lips, -usan opened her mouth to speak. 7othing came. (ithout ever breaking the ic gaze she/d locked on -trathmore, she took her hand from the pocket of his blazer. In her hand was an ob0ect. -he held it out, shaking. -trathmore half e3pected to look down and see the !eretta leveled at his gut. !ut the gun was still on the floor, propped safel in .ale/s hand. The ob0ect -usan was holding was smaller. -trathmore stared down at it, and an instant later, he understood. As -trathmore stared, realit warped, and time slowed to a crawl. .e could hear the sound of his own heart. The man who had triumphed over giants for so man ears had been outdone in an instant. -lain b love"b his own foolishness. In a simple act of chivalr , he had given -usan his 0acket. And with it, his -k Pager. 7ow it was -trathmore who went rigid. -usan/s hand was shaking. The pager fell at .ale/s feet. (ith a look of astonishment and betra al that -trathmore would never forget, -usan $letcher raced past him out of 7ode F. The commander let her go. In slow motion, he bent and retrieved the pager. There were no new messages"-usan had read them all. -trathmore scrolled desperatel through the list.
-D!?E1TC E7-EI TA7GA&#"TE<*I7ATE&

-D!?E1TC PIE<<E 1,#D1.A<&E"TE<*I7ATE&

-D!?E1TC .A7- .D!E<"TE<*I7ATE&

-D!?E1TC <#1c# E:A 6<A7A&A"TE<*I7ATE&5

The list went on. -trathmore felt a wave of horror. 8 an exp!ain4 -he $i!! understand4 <onor4 9ountry4 !ut there was one message he had not et seen"one message he could never e3plain. Trembling, he scrolled to the final transmission.
-D!?E1TC &A:I& !E1GE<"TE<*I7ATE&

-trathmore hung his head. .is dream was over.

Chapter 104
-usan staggered out of 7ode F.
-D!?E1TC &A:I& !E1GE<"TE<*I7ATE&

As if in a dream, she moved toward 1r pto/s main e3it. 6reg .ale/s voice echoed in her mindC Susan, Strathmores going to &i!! me4 Susan, the ommanders in !o.e $ith you4 -usan reached the enormous circular portal and began stabbing desperatel at the ke pad. The door did not move. -he tried again, but the enormous slab refused to rotate. -usan let out a muted scream"apparentl the power outage had deleted the e3it codes. -he was still trapped. (ithout warning, two arms closed around her from behind, grasping her half%numb bod . The touch was familiar et repulsive. It lacked the brute strength of 6reg .ale, but there was a desperate roughness to it, an inner determination like steel. -usan turned. The man restraining her was desolate, frightened. It was a face she had never seen. '-usan,+ -trathmore begged, holding her. 'I can e3plain.+ -he tried to pull awa . The commander held fast. -usan tried to scream, but she had no voice. -he tried to run, but strong hands restrained her, pulling her backward. 'I love ou,+ the voice was whispering. 'I/ve loved ou forever.+ -usan/s stomach turned over and over. '-ta with me.+ -usan/s mind whirled with grisl images"&avid/s bright%green e es, slowl closing for the last time; 6reg .ale/s corpse seeping blood onto the carpet; Phil 1hartrukian/s burned and broken on the generators. 'The pain will pass,+ the voice said. '4ou/ll love again.+ -usan heard nothing. '-ta with me,+ the voice pleaded. 'I/ll heal our wounds.+ -he struggled, helpless.

'I did it for us. (e/re made for each other. -usan, I love ou.+ The words flowed as if he had waited a decade to speak them. 'I love ou2 8 !o.e you47 In that instant, thirt ards awa , as if rebutting -trathmore/s vile confession, T<A7-,T< let out a savage, pitiless hiss. The sound was an entirel new one"a distant, ominous sizzling that seemed to grow like a serpent in the depths of the silo. The freon, it appeared, had not reached its mark in time. The commander let go of -usan and turned toward the M= billion computer. .is e es went wide with dread. '7o2+ .e grabbed his head. '7o2+ The si3%stor rocket began to tremble. -trathmore staggered a faltering step toward the thundering hull. Then he fell to his knees, a sinner before an angr god. It was no use. At the base of the silo, T<A7-,T</s titanium%strontium processors had 0ust ignited.

Chapter 105
A fireball racing upward through three million silicon chips makes a uni;ue sound. The crackling of a forest fire, the howling of a tornado, the steaming gush of a ge ser5 all trapped within a reverberant hull. It was the devil/s breath, pouring through a sealed cavern, looking for escape. -trathmore knelt transfi3ed b the horrific noise rising toward them. The world/s most e3pensive computer was about to become an eight%stor inferno. *** In slow motion, -trathmore turned back toward -usan. -he stood paral zed beside the 1r pto door. -trathmore stared at her tear%streaked face. -he seemed to shimmer in the fluorescent light. Shes an ange!, he thought. .e searched her e es for heaven, but all he could see was death. It was the death of trust. ,ove and honor were gone. The fantas that had kept him going all these ears was dead. .e would never have -usan $letcher. 7ever. The sudden emptiness that gripped him was overwhelming. -usan gazed vaguel toward T<A7-,T<. -he knew that trapped within the ceramic shell, a fireball was racing toward them. -he sensed it rising faster and faster, feeding on the o3 gen released b the burning chips. In moments the 1r pto dome would be a blazing inferno. -usan/s mind told her to run, but &avid/s dead weight pressed down all around her. -he thought she heard his voice calling to her, telling her to escape, but there was nowhere to go. 1r pto was a sealed tomb. It didn/t matter; the thought of death did not frighten her. &eath would stop the pain. -he would be with &avid. The 1r pto floor began to tremble, as if below it an angr sea monster were rising out of the depths. &avid/s voice seemed to be calling. >un, Susan4 >un4 -trathmore was moving toward her now, his face a distant memor . .is cool gra e es were lifeless. The patriot who had lived in her mind a hero had died"a murderer. .is arms were suddenl around her again, clutching desperatel . .e kissed her cheeks. '$orgive me,+ he begged. -usan tried to pull awa , but -trathmore held on. T<A7-,T< began vibrating like a missile preparing to launch. The 1r pto floor began to shake. -trathmore held tighter. '.old me, -usan. I need ou.+ A violent surge of fur filled -usan/s limbs. &avid/s voice called out again. 8 !o.e you4 *s ape4 In a sudden burst of energ , -usan tore free. The roar from T<A7-,T< became deafening. The fire was at the silo/s peak. T<A7-,T< groaned, straining at its seams. &avid/s voice seemed to lift -usan, guide her. -he dashed across the 1r pto floor and started up -trathmore/s catwalk stairs. !ehind her, T<A7-,T< let out a deafening roar. As the last of the silicon chips disintegrated, a tremendous updraft of heat tore through the upper casing of the silo and sent shards of ceramic thirt feet into the air. Instantl the o3 gen%rich air of 1r pto rushed in to fill the enormous vacuum.

-usan reached the upper landing and grabbed the banister when the tremendous rush of wind ripped at her bod . It spun her around in time to see the deput director of operations, far below, staring up at her from beside T<A7-,T<. There was a storm raging all around him, and et there was peace in his e es. .is lips parted, and he mouthed his final word. '-usan.+ The air rushing into T<A7-,T< ignited on contact. In a brilliant flash of light, 1ommander Trevor -trathmore passed from man, to silhouette, to legend. (hen the blast hit -usan, it blew her back fifteen feet into -trathmore/s office. All she remembered was a searing heat.

Chapter 106
In the window of the &irector/s conference room, high above the 1r pto dome, three faces appeared, breathless. The e3plosion had shaken the entire 7-A comple3. ,eland $ontaine, 1had !rinkerhoff, and *idge *ilken all stared out in silent horror. -event feet below, the 1r pto dome was blazing. The pol carbonate roof was still intact, but beneath the transparent shell, a fire raged. !lack smoke swirled like fog inside the dome. The three stared down without a word. The spectacle had an eerie grandeur to it. $ontaine stood a long moment. .e finall spoke, his voice faint but unwavering. '*idge, get a crew down there5 now.+ Across the suite, $ontaine/s phone began to ring. It was ?abba.

Chapter 107
-usan had no idea how much time had passed. A burning in her throat pulled her to her senses. &isoriented, she studied her surroundings. -he was on a carpet behind a desk. The onl light in the room was a strange orange flickering. The air smelled of burning plastic. The room she was standing in was not reall a room at all; it was a devastated shell. The curtains were on fire, and the Ple3iglas walls were smoldering. Then she remembered it all. &avid. In a rising panic, she pulled herself to her feet. The air felt caustic in her windpipe. -he stumbled to the doorwa looking for awa out. As she crossed the threshold, her leg swung out over an ab ss; she grabbed the door frame 0ust in time. The catwalk had disappeared. $ift feet below was a twisted collapse of steaming metal. -usan scanned the 1r pto floor in horror. It was a sea of fire. The melted remains of three million silicon chips had erupted from T<A7-,T< like lava. Thick, acrid smoke billowed upward. -usan knew the smell. -ilicon smoke. &eadl poison. <etreating into the remains of -trathmore/s office, she began to feel faint. .er throat burned. The entire place was filled with a fier light. 1r pto was d ing. So $i!! 8, she thought. $or a moment, she considered the onl possible e3it"-trathmore/s elevator. !ut she knew it was useless; the electronics never would have survived the blast. !ut as -usan made her wa through the thickening smoke, she recalled .ale/s words. The e!e.ator runs on po$er from the main bui!ding4 8.e seen the s hemati s4 -usan knew that was true. -he also knew the entire shaft was encased in reinforced concrete. The fumes swirled all around her. -he stumbled through the smoke toward the elevator door. !ut when she got there, she saw that the elevator/s call button was dark. -usan 0abbed fruitlessl at the darkened panel, then she fell to her knees and pounded on the door. -he stopped almost instantl . -omething was whirring behind the doors. -tartled, she looked up. It sounded like the carriage was right there2 -usan stabbed at the button again. Again, a whirring behind the doors. -uddenl she saw it.

The call button was not dead"it had 0ust been covered withblack soot. It now glowed faintl beneath her smudged fingerprints. There/s power2 (ith a surge of hope, she punched at the button. #ver and over, something behind the doors engaged. -he could hear the ventilation fan in the elevator car. The arriage is here4 (hy $ont the damn doors open6 Through the smoke she spied the tin secondar ke pad"lettered buttons, A through N. In a wave of despair, -usan remembered. The password. The smoke was starting to curl in through the melted window frames. Again she banged on the elevator doors. The refused to open. The pass$ord4 she thought. Strathmore ne.er to!d me the pass$ord4 -ilicon smoke was now filling the office. 1hoking, -usan fell against the elevator in defeat. The ventilation fan was running 0ust a few feet awa . -he la there, dazed, gulping for air. -he closed her e es, but again &avid/s voice woke her. *s ape, Susan4 )pen the door4 *s ape4 -he opened her e es e3pecting to see his face, those wild green e es, that pla ful smile. !ut the letters A"N came into focus. The pass$ord -usan stared at the letters on the ke pad. -he could barel keep them in focus. #n the ,E& below the ke pad, five empt spots awaited entr . A fi.e- hara ter pass$ord, she thought. -he instantl knew the oddsC twent %si3 to the fifth power; @@,JJ@,FA8 possible choices. At one guess ever second, it would take nineteen weeks5 As -usan $letcher la choking on the floor beneath the ke pad, the commander/s pathetic voice came to her. .e was calling to her again. 8 !o.e you Susan4 8.e a!$ays !o.ed you4 Susan4 Susan4 Susan -he knew he was dead, and et his voice was relentless. -he heard her name over and over. -usan5 -usan5 Then, in a moment of chilling clarit , she knew. Trembling weakl , she reached up to the ke pad and t ped the password.
-5 D5 -5 A5 7

An instant later, the doors slid open.

Chapter 108
-trathmore/s elevator dropped fast. Inside the carriage, -usan sucked deep breaths of fresh air into her lungs. &azed, she steadied herself against the wall as the car slowed to a stop. A moment later some gears clicked, and the conve or began moving again, this time horizontall . -usan felt the carriage accelerate as it began rumbling toward the main 7-A comple3. $inall it whirred to a stop, and the doors opened. 1oughing, -usan $letcher stumbled into a darkened cement corridor. -he found herself in a tunnel"low%ceilinged and narrow. A double ellow line stretched out before her. The line disappeared into an empt , dark hollow. The Dnderground .ighwa 5 -he staggered toward the tunnel, holding the wall for guidance. !ehind her, the elevator door slid shut. #nce again -usan $letcher was plunged into darkness. -ilence. 7othing e3cept a faint humming in the walls. A humming that grew louder. -uddenl it was as if dawn were breaking. The blackness thinned to a haz gra . The walls of the tunnel began to take shape. All at once, a small vehicle whipped around the corner, its headlight blinding her. -usan stumbled back against the wall and shielded her e es. There was a gust of air, and the transport whipped past.

An instant later there was a deafening s;ueal of rubber on cement. The hum approached once again, this time in reverse. -econds later the vehicle came to a stop beside her. '*s. $letcher2+ an astonished voice e3claimed. -usan gazed at a vaguel familiar shape in the driver/s seat of an electric golf cart. '?esus.+ The man gasped. 'Are ou oka ) (e thought ou were dead2+ -usan stared blankl . '1had !rinkerhoff,+ he sputtered, stud ing the shellshocked cr ptographer. '&irectorial PA.+ -usan could onl manage a dazed whimper. 'T<A7-,T<5+ !rinkerhoff nodded. '$orget it. 6et on2+ *** The beam of the golf cart/s headlights whipped across the cement walls. 'There/s a virus in the main databank,+ !rinkerhoff blurted. 'I know,+ -usan heard herself whisper. '(e need ou to help us.+ -usan was fighting back the tears. '-trathmore5 he5+ '(e know,+ !rinkerhoff said. '.e b passed 6auntlet.+ '4es5 and5+ The words got stuck in her throat. <e &i!!ed Da.id4 !rinkerhoff put a hand on her shoulder. 'Almost there, *s. $letcher. ?ust hold on.+ *** The high%speed Gensington golf cart rounded a corner and skidded to a stop. !eside them, branching off perpendicular to the tunnel, was a hallwa , diml lit b red floor lighting. '1ome on,+ !rinkerhoff said, helping her out. .e guided her into the corridor. -usan drifted behind him in a fog. The tiled passagewa sloped downward at a steep incline. -usan grabbed the handrail and followed !rinkerhoff down. The air began to grow cooler. The continued their descent. As the dropped deeper into the earth, the tunnel narrowed. $rom somewhere behind them came the echo of footsteps"a strong, purposeful gait. The footsteps grew louder. !oth !rinkerhoff and -usan stopped and turned. -triding toward them was an enormous black man. -usan had never seen him before. As he approached, he fi3ed her with a penetrating stare. '(ho/s this)+ he demanded. '-usan $letcher,+ !rinkerhoff replied. The enormous man arched his e ebrows. Even soot and soaked, -usan $letcher was more striking than he had imagined. 'And the commander)+ he demanded. !rinkerhoff shook his head. The man said nothing. .e stared off a moment. Then he turned back to -usan. ',eland $ontaine,+ he said, offering her his hand. '6lad ou/re oka .+ -usan stared. -he/d alwa s known she/d meet the director someda , but this was not the introduction she/d envisioned. '1ome along, *s. $letcher,+ $ontaine said, leading the wa . '(e/ll need all the help we can get.+ ***

,ooming in the reddish haze at the bottom of the tunnel, a steel wall blocked their wa . $ontaine approached and t ped an entr code into a recessed cipher bo3. .e then placed his right hand against a small glass panel. A strobe flashed. A moment later the massive wall thundered left. There was onl one 7-A chamber more sacred than 1r pto, and -usan $letcher sensed she was about to enter it.

Chapter 109
The command center for the 7-A/s main databank looked like a scaled%down 7A-A mission control. A dozen computer workstations faced the thirt %foot b fort %foot video wall at the far end of the room. #n the screen, numbers and diagrams flashed in rapid succession, appearing and disappearing as if someone were channel surfing. A handful of technicians raced wildl from station to station trailing long sheets of printout paper and elling commands. It was chaos. -usan stared at the dazzling facilit . -he vaguel remembered that =>9 metric tons of earth had been e3cavated to create it. The chamber was located =@L feet below ground, where it would be totall impervious to flu3 bombs and nuclear blasts. #n a raised workstation in the center of the room stood ?abba. .e bellowed orders from his platform like a king to his sub0ects. Illuminated on the screen directl behind him was a message. The message was all too familiar to -usan. The billboard%size te3t hung ominousl over ?abba/s headC
#7,4 T.E T<DT. (I,, -A:E 4#D 7#(

E7TE< PA--%GE4 PPPPPP

As if trapped in some surreal nightmare, -usan followed $ontaine toward the podium. .er world was a slow%motion blur. ?abba saw them coming and wheeled like an enraged bull. 'I built 6auntlet for a reason2+ '6auntlet/s gone,+ $ontaine replied evenl . '#ld news, &irector,+ ?abba spat. 'The shock wave knocked me on m ass2 (here/s -trathmore)+ '1ommander -trathmore is dead.+ 'Poetic fucking 0ustice.+ '1ool it, ?abba,+ the director ordered. '!ring us up to speed. .ow bad is this virus)+ ?abba stared at the director a long moment, and then without warning, he burst out laughing. 'A .irus67 .is harsh guffaw resonated through the underground chamber. 'Is that what ou think this is)+ $ontaine kept his cool. ?abba/s insolence was wa out of line, but $ontaine knew this was not the time or place to handle it. &own here, ?abba outranked 6od himself. 1omputer problems had awa of ignoring the normal chain of command. 'It/s not a virus)+ !rinkerhoff e3claimed hopefull . ?abba snorted in disgust. 5@iruses have replication strings, prett bo 2 This doesn/t2+ -usan hovered nearb , unable to focus. 'Then what/s going on)+ $ontaine demanded. 'I thought we had a virus.+ ?abba sucked in a long breath and lowered his voice. ':iruses5+ he said, wiping sweat from his face. ':iruses reproduce. The create clones. The /re vain and stupid"binar egomaniacs. The pump out babies faster than rabbits. That/s their weakness" ou can cross%breed them into oblivion if ou know what ou/re doing. Dnfortunatel , this program has no ego, no need to reproduce. It/s clear%headed and focused. In fact, when it/s accomplished its ob0ective here, it will probabl

commit digital suicide. '?abba held out his arms reverentl to the pro0ected havoc on the enormous screen. ',adies and gentlemen.+ .e sighed. '*eet the kamikaze of computer invaders5 the $orm.7 5(orm67 !rinkerhoff groaned. It seemed like a mundane term to describe the insidious intruder. '(orm.+ ?abba smoldered. '7o comple3 structures, 0ust instinct"eat, shit, crawl. That/s it. -implicit . &eadl simplicit . It does what it/s programmed to do and then checks out.+ $ontaine e ed ?abba sternl . 'And what is this worm programmed to do)+ '7o clue,+ ?abba replied. '<ight now, it/s spreading out and attaching itself to all our classified data. After that, it could do an thing. It might decide to delete all the files, or it might 0ust decide to print smile faces on certain (hite .ouse transcripts.+ $ontaine/s voice remained cool and collected. '1an ou stop it)+ ?abba let out a long sigh and faced the screen. 'I have no idea. It all depends on how pissed off the author is.+ .e pointed to the message on the wall. 'An bod want to tell me what the hell that means)+
#7,4 T.E T<DT. (I,, -A:E 4#D 7#(

E7TE< PA--%GE4 PPPPPP

?abba waited for a response and got none. ',ooks like someone/s messing with us, &irector. !lackmail. This is a ransom note if I ever saw one.+ -usan/s voice was a whisper, empt and hollow. 'It/s5 Ensei Tankado.+ ?abba turned to her. .e stared a moment, wide%e ed. 5Tan&ado67 -usan nodded weakl . '.e wanted our confession5 about T<A7-,T<5 but it cost him his"+ '1onfession)+ !rinkerhoff interrupted, looking stunned. 'Tankado wants us to confess we have T<A7-,T<) I/d sa it/s a bit late for that4 + -usan opened her mouth to speak, but ?abba took over. ',ooks like Tankado/s got a kill%code,+ he said, gazing up at the message on the screen. Ever one turned. 'Gill code)+ !rinkerhoff demanded. ?abba nodded. '4eah. A pass%ke that stops the worm. -impl put, if we admit we have T<A7-,T<, Tankado gives us a kill%code. (e t pe it in and save the databank. (elcome to digital e3tortion.+ $ontaine stood like rock, unwavering. '.ow long have we got)+ 'About an hour,+ ?abba said. '?ust time enough to call a press conference and spill our guts. '<ecommendation,+ $ontaine demanded. '(hat do ou propose we do)+ 'A re ommendation67 ?abba blurted in disbelief. '4ou want a recommendation) I/ll give ou a recommendation2 4ou ;uit fucking around, thats what ou do2+ 'Eas ,+ the director warned. '&irector,+ ?abba sputtered. '<ight now, Ensei Tankado o$ns this databank2 6ive him $hate.er he wants. If he wants the world to know about T<A7-,T<, call 177, and drop our shorts. T<A7-,T</s a hole in the ground now an wa "what the hell do you care)+ There was a silence. $ontaine seemed to be considering his options. -usan began to speak, but ?abba beat her to it. '(hat are ou waiting for, &irector2 6et Tankado on the phone2 Tell him ou/ll pla ball2 (e need that kill%code, or this whole place is going down2+ 7obod moved.

'Are ou all insane)+ ?abba screamed. '1all Tankado2 Tell him we fold2 6et me that kill%code2 7#(2+ ?abba whipped out his cellular phone and switched it on. '7ever mind2 6et me his number2 I/ll call the little prick myse!f47 '&on/t bother,+ -usan said in a whisper. 'Tankado/s dead.+ After a moment of confused astonishment, the implications hit ?abba like a bullet to the gut. The huge - s%-ec looked like he was about to crumble. 5Dead6 !ut then5 that means5 we can/t5+ 'That means we/ll need a new plan,+ $ontaine said matter%of%factl . ?abba/s e es were still glazed with shock when someone in the back of the room began shouting wildl . '?abba2 ?abba2+ It was -oshi Guta, his head techie. -he came running toward the podium trailing a long printout. -he looked terrified. '?abba2+ -he gasped. 'The worm5 I 0ust found out what it/s programmed to do2+ -oshi thrust the paper into ?abba/s hands. 'I pulled this from the s stem%activit probe2 (e isolated the worm/s e3ecute commands"have a look at the programming2 ,ook what it/s planning to do2+ &azed, the chief - s%-ec read the printout. Then he grabbed the handrail for support. '#h, ?esus,+ ?abba gasped. 'Tankado5 ou bastard47

Chapter 110
?abba stared blankl at the printout -oshi had 0ust handed him. Pale, he wiped his forehead on his sleeve. '&irector, we have no choice. (e/ve got to kill power to the databank.+ 'Dnacceptable,+ $ontaine replied. 'The results would be devastating.+ ?abba knew the director was right. There were over three thousand I-&7 connections t ing into the 7-A databank from all over the world. Ever da militar commanders accessed up%to%the%instant satellite photos of enem movement. ,ockheed engineers downloaded compartmentalized blueprints of new weaponr . $ield operatives accessed mission updates. The 7-A databank was the backbone of thousands of D.-. government operations. -hutting it down without warning would cause life%and%death intelligence blackouts all over the globe. 'I/m aware of the implications, sir,+ ?abba said, 'but we have no choice.+ 'E3plain ourself,+ $ontaine ordered. .e shot a ;uick glance at -usan standing beside him on the podium. -he seemed miles awa . ?abba took a deep breath and wiped his brow again. $rom the look on his face, it was clear to the group on the podium that the were not going to like what he had to sa . 'This worm,+ ?abba began. 'This worm is not an ordinar degenerative c cle. It/s a se!e ti.e c cle. In other words, it/s a worm with taste.7 !rinkerhoff opened his mouth to speak, but $ontaine waved him off. '*ost destructive applications wipe a databank clean, '?abba continued, 'but this one is more comple3. It deletes onl those files that fall within certain parameters.+ '4ou mean it won/t attack the $ho!e databank)+ !rinkerhoff asked hopefull . 'That/s good, right)+ '7o2+ ?abba e3ploded. 'It/s bad2 It/s .ery fucking bad47 '1ool it2+ $ontaine ordered. '(hat parameters is this worm looking for) *ilitar ) 1overt ops)+ ?abba shook his head. .e e ed -usan, who was still distant, and then ?abba/s e es rose to meet the director/s. '-ir, as ou know, an one who wants to tie into this databank from the outside has to pass a series of securit gates before the /re admitted.+ $ontaine nodded. The databank/s access hierarchies were brilliantl conceived; authorized personnel could dial in via the Internet and (orld (ide (eb. &epending on their authorization se;uence, the were permitted access to their own compartmentalized zones.

'!ecause we/re tied to the global Internet, '?abba e3plained, 'hackers, foreign governments, and E$$ sharks circle this databank twent %four hours a da and tr to break in.+ '4es,+ $ontaine said, 'and twent %four hours a da , our securit filters keep them out. (hat/s our point)+ ?abba gazed down at the printout. '* point is this. Tankado/s worm is not targeting our data.7 .e cleared his throat. 'It/s targeting our se urity fi!ters.7 $ontaine blanched. Apparentl he understood the implications"this worm was targeting the filters that kept the 7-A databank confidential. (ithout filters, all of the information in the databank would become accessible to ever one on the outside. '(e need to shut down,+ ?abba repeated. 'In about an hour, ever third grader with a modem is going to have top D.-. securit clearance.+ $ontaine stood a long moment without sa ing a word. ?abba waited impatientl and finall turned to -oshi. '-oshi2 :<2 7#(2+ -oshi dashed off. ?abba relied on :< often. In most computer circles, :< meant 'virtual realit ,+ but at the 7-A it meant .is-rep "visual representation. In a world full of technicians and politicians all having different levels of technical understanding, a graphic representation was often the onl wa to make a point; a single plummeting graph usuall aroused ten times the reaction inspired b volumes of spreadsheets. ?abba knew a :< of the current crisis would make its point instantl . ':<2+ -oshi elled from a terminal at the back of the room. A computer%generated diagram flashed to life on the wall before them. -usan gazed up absentl , detached from the madness around her. Ever one in the room followed ?abba/s gaze to the screen. The diagram before them resembled a bull/s%e e. In the center was a red circle marked data. Around the center were five concentric circles of differing thickness and color. The outermost circle was faded, almost transparent. '(e/ve got a five%tier level of defense,+ ?abba e3plained. 'A primar !astion .ost, two sets of packet filters for $TP and [%eleven, a tunnel block, and finall a PE*%based authorization window right off the Truffle pro0ect. The outside shield that/s disappearing represents the e3posed host. It/s practicall gone. (ithin the hour, all five shields will follow. After that, the world pours in. Ever b te of 7-A data becomes public domain.+ $ontaine studied the :<, his e es smoldering. !rinkerhoff let out a weak whimper. 'This worm can open our databank to the world)+ '1hild/s pla for Tankado,+ ?abba snapped. '6auntlet was our fail%safe. -trathmore blew it.+ 'It/s an act of war,+ $ontaine whispered, an edge in his voice. ?abba shook his head. 'I reall doubt Tankado ever meant for it to go this far. I suspect he intended to be around to stop it.+ $ontaine gazed up at the screen and watched the first of the five walls disappear entirel . '!astion .ost is toast2+ a technician elled from the back of the room. '-econd shield/s e3posed2+ '(e/ve got to start shutting down,+ ?abba urged. '$rom the looks of the :<, we/ve got about fort %five minutes. -hutdown is a comple3 process.+ It was true. The 7-A databank had been constructed in such a wa as to ensure it would never lose power"accidentall or if attacked. *ultiple fail%safes for phone and power were buried in reinforced steel canisters deep underground, and in addition to the feeds from within the 7-A comple3, there were multiple backups off main public grids. -hutting down involved a comple3 series of confirmations and protocols"significantl more complicated than the average nuclear submarine missile launch. '(e have time,+ ?abba said, 'if we hurr . *anual shutdown should take about thirt minutes.+ $ontaine continued staring up at the :<, apparentl pondering his options.

'&irector2+ ?abba e3ploded. '(hen these firewalls fall, ever user on the planet will be issued top%securit clearance2 And I/m talking upper !e.e!4 <ecords of covert ops2 #verseas agents2 7ames and locations of ever one in the federal witness protection program2 ,aunch code confirmations2 (e must shut down2 7ow2+ The director seemed unmoved. 'There must be some other wa .+ '4es,+ ?abba spat, 'there is2 The kill%code2 !ut the onl gu who knows it happens to be dead2+ '.ow about brute force)+ !rinkerhoff blurted. '1an we guess the kill%code)+ ?abba threw up his arms. '$or 1hrist sake2 Gill%codes are like encr ption ke s"random2 Impossible to guess2 If ou think ou can t pe 899 trillion entries in the ne3t fort %five minutes, be m guest2+ 'The kill%code/s in -pain,+ -usan offered weakl . Ever one on the podium turned. It was the first thing she had said in a long time. -usan looked up, blear %e ed. 'Tankado gave it awa when he died.+ Ever one looked lost. 'The pass%ke 5+ -usan shivered as she spoke. '1ommander -trathmore sent someone to find it.+ 'And)+ ?abba demanded. '&id -trathmore/s man find it)+ -usan tried to fight it, but the tears began to flow. '4es,+ she choked. 'I think so.+

Chapter 111
An earsplitting ell cut through the control room. 5Shar&s47 It was -oshi. ?abba spun toward the :<. Two thin lines had appeared outside the concentric circles. The looked like sperm tr ing to breach a reluctant egg. '!lood/s in the water, folks2+ ?abba turned back to the director. 'I need a decision. Either we start shutting down, or we/ll never make it. As soon as these two intruders see the !astion .ost is down, the /ll send up a war cr .+ $ontaine did not respond. .e was deep in thought. -usan $letcher/s news of the pass%ke in -pain seemed promising to him. .e shot a glance toward -usan in the back of the room. -he appeared to be in her own world, collapsed in a chair, her head buried in her hands. $ontaine was unsure e3actl what had triggered the reaction, but whatever it was, he had no time for it now. 'I need a decision2+ ?abba demanded. '7ow2+ $ontaine looked up. .e spoke calml . '#ka , ou/ve got one. (e are not shutting down. (e/re going to wait.+ ?abba/s 0aw dropped. 5(hat6 !ut that/s"+ 'A gamble,+ $ontaine interrupted. 'A gamble we 0ust might win.+ .e took ?abba/s cellular and punched a few ke s. '*idge,+ he said. 'It/s ,eland $ontaine. ,isten carefull 5.+

Chapter 112
'4ou better know what the hell ou/re doing, &irector,+ ?abba hissed. '(e/re about to lose shut%down capabilit .+ $ontaine did not respond. As if on cue, the door at the back of the control room opened, and *idge came dashing in. -he arrived breathless at the podium. '&irector2 The switchboard is patching it through right now2+ $ontaine turned e3pectantl toward the screen on the front wall. $ifteen seconds later the screen crackled to life. The image on screen was snow and stilted at first, and graduall grew sharper. It was a BuickTime digital transmission"onl five frames per second. The image revealed two men. #ne was pale with a buzz cut, the other a blond all%American. The were seated facing the camera like two newscasters waiting to go on the air.

'(hat the hell is this)+ ?abba demanded. '-it tight,+ $ontaine ordered. The men appeared to be inside a van of some sort. Electronic cabling hung all around them. The audio connection crackled to life. -uddenl there was background noise. 'Inbound audio,+ a technician called from behind them. '$ive seconds till two%wa .+ '(ho are the )+ !rinkerhoff asked, uneasil . 'E e in the sk ,+ $ontaine replied, gazing up at the two men he had sent to -pain. It had been a necessar precaution. $ontaine had believed in almost ever aspect of -trathmore/s plan"the regrettable but necessar removal of Ensei Tankado, rewriting &igital $ortress"it was all solid. !ut there was one thing that made $ontaine nervousC the use of .ulohot. .ulohot was skilled, but he was a mercenar . (as he trustworth ) (ould he take the pass%ke for himself) $ontaine wanted .ulohot covered, 0ust incase, and he had taken the re;uisite measures.

Chapter 113
'Absolutel not2+ The man with the buzz cut elled into the camera. '(e have orders2 (e report to &irector ,eland $ontaine and ,eland $ontaine onl 2+ $ontaine looked mildl amused. '4ou don/t know who I am, do ou)+ '&oesn/t matter, does it)+ the blond fired hotl . ',et me e3plain,+ $ontaine inter0ected. ',et me e3plain something right now.+ -econds later, the two men were red%faced, spilling their guts to the director of the 7ational -ecurit Agenc . '&%director,+ the blond stammered, 'I/m Agent 1oliander. This is Agent -mith.+ '$ine,+ $ontaine said. '?ust brief us.+ *** At the back of the room, -usan $letcher sat and fought the suffocating loneliness that pressed down around her. E es closed, and ears ringing, she wept. .er bod had gone numb. The ma hem in the control room faded to a dull murmur. The gathering on the podium listened, restless, as Agent -mith began his briefing. '#n our orders, &irector,+ -mith began, 'we/ve been here in -eville for two da s, trailing *r. Ensei Tankado.+ 'Tell me about the kill,+ $ontaine said impatientl . -mith nodded. '(e observed from inside the van at about fift meters. The kill was smooth. .ulohot was obviousl a pro. !ut afterward his directive went awr . 1ompan arrived. .ulohot never got the item.+ $ontaine nodded. The agents had contacted him in -outh America with news that something had gone wrong, so $ontaine had cut his trip short. 1oliander took over. '(e sta ed with .ulohot as ou ordered. !ut he never made a move for the morgue. Instead, he picked up the trail of some other gu . ,ooked private. 1oat and tie.+ 'Private)+ $ontaine mused. It sounded like a -trathmore pla "wisel keeping the 7-A out of it. '$TP filters failing2+ a technician called out. '(e need the item,+ $ontaine pressed. '(here is .ulohot now)+ -mith looked over his shoulder. '(ell5 he/s with us, sir.+ $ontaine e3haled. '(here)+ It was the best new she/d heard all da . -mith reached toward the lens to make an ad0ustment. The camera swept across the inside of the van to reveal two limp bodies propped against the back wall. !oth were motionless. #ne was a large man with twisted wire%rim glasses. The other was oung with a shock of dark hair and a blood shirt. '.ulohot/s the one on the left,+ -mith offered.

'.ulohot/s dead)+ the director demanded. '4es, sir.+ $ontaine knew there would be time for e3planations later. .e glanced up at the thinning shields. 'Agent -mith,+ he said slowl and clearl . 'The item. I need it.+ -mith looked sheepish. '-ir, we still have no idea $hat the item is. (e/re on a need%to%know.+

Chapter 114
'Then look again2+ $ontaine declared. The director watched in disma as the stilted image of the agents searched the two limp bodies in the van for a list of random numbers and letters. ?abba was pale. '#h m 6od, the can/t find it. (e/re dead2+ ',osing $TP filters2+ a voice elled. 'Third shield/s e3posed2+ There was a new flurr of activit . #n the front screen, the agent with the buzz cut held out his arms in defeat. '-ir, the pass%ke isn/t here. (e/ve searched both men. Pockets. 1lothing. (allets. 7o sign at all. .ulohot was wearing a *onocle computer, and we/ve checked that too. It doesn/t look like he ever transmitted an thing remotel resembling random characters"onl a list of kills.+ 5Dammit47 $ontaine seethed, suddenl losing his cool. 'It/s got to be there2 Geep looking2+ ?abba had apparentl seen enough"$ontaine had gambled and lost. ?abba took over. The huge - s%-ec descended from his pulpit like a storm off a mountain. .e swept through his arm of programmers calling out commands. 'Access au3iliar kills2 -tart shutting it down2 &o it now2+ '(e/ll never make it2+ -oshi elled. '(e need a half hour2 ! the time we shut down, it will be too late2+ ?abba opened his mouth to repl , but he was cut short b a scream of agon from the back of the room. Ever one turned. ,ike an apparition, -usan $letcher rose from her crouched position in the rear of the chamber. .er face was white, her e es transfi3ed on the freeze%frame of &avid !ecker, motionless and blood , propped up on the floor of the van. '4ou killed him2+ she screamed. 5%ou &i!!ed him47 -he stumbled toward the image and reached out. '&avid5+ Ever one looked up in confusion. -usan advanced, still calling, her e es never leaving the pro0ection of &avid/s bod . '&avid.+ -he gasped, staggering forward. '#h, &avid5 how could the "+ $ontaine seemed lost. '4ou know this man)+ -usan swa ed unsteadil as she passed the podium. -he stopped a few feet in front of the enormous pro0ection and stared up, bewildered and numb, calling over and over to the man she loved.

Chapter 115
The emptiness in &avid !ecker/s mind was absolute. I am dead. And et there was a sound. A distant voice5 '&avid.+ There was a dizz ing burning beneath his arm. .is blood was filled with fire. My body is not my o$n. And et there was a voice, calling to him. It was thin, distant. !ut it was part of him. There were other voices too"unfamiliar, unimportant. 1alling out. .e fought to block them out. There was onl one voice that mattered. It faded in and out. '&avid5 I/m sorr 5+ There was a mottled light. $aint at first, a single slit of gra ness. 6rowing. !ecker tried to move. Pain. .e tried to speak. -ilence. The voice kept calling.

-omeone was near him, lifting him. !ecker moved toward the voice. #r was he being moved) It was calling. .e gazed absentl at the illuminated image. .e could see her on a small screen. It was a woman, staring up at him from another world. 8s she $at hing me die6 '&avid5+ The voice was familiar. -he was an angel. -he had come for him. The angel spoke. '&avid, I love ou.+ -uddenl he knew. *** -usan reached out toward the screen, cr ing, laughing, lost in a torrent of emotions. -he wiped fiercel at her tears. '&avid, I"I thought5+ $ield Agent -mith eased &avid !ecker into the seat facing the monitor. '.e/s a little wooz , ma/am. 6ive him a second.+ '!%but,+ -usan was stammering, 'I saw a transmission. It said5+ -mith nodded. '(e saw it too. .ulohot counted his chickens a little earl .+ '!ut the blood5+ '$lesh wound,+ -mith replied. '(e slapped a gauze on it.+ -usan couldn/t speak. Agent 1oliander piped in from off camera. '(e hit him with the new ?=F"long%acting stun gun. Probabl hurt like hell, but we got him off the street.+ '&on/t worr , ma/am,+ -mith assured. '.e/ll be fine.+ &avid !ecker stared at the T: monitor in front of him. .e was disoriented, light%headed. The image on the screen was of a room"a room filled with chaos. -usan was there. -he was standing on an open patch of floor, gazing up at him. -he was cr ing and laughing. '&avid. Thank 6od2 I thought I had lost ou2+ .e rubbed his temple. .e moved in front of the screen and pulled the gooseneck microphone toward his mouth. '-usan)+ -usan gazed up in wonder. &avid/s rugged features now filled the entire wall before her. .is voice boomed. '-usan, I need to ask ou something.+ The resonance and volume of !ecker/s voice seemed to momentaril suspend the action in the databank. Ever one stopped midstride and turned. '-usan $letcher,+ the voice resonated, 'will ou marr me)+ A hush spread across the room. A clipboard clattered to the floor along with a mug of pencils. 7o one bent to pick them up. There was onl the faint hum of the terminal fans and the sound of &avid !ecker/s stead breathing in his microphone. '&%&avid5+ -usan stammered, unaware that thirt %seven people stood riveted behind her. '4ou alread asked me, remember) $ive months ago. I said es.+ 'I know.+ .e smiled. '!ut this time+"he e3tended his left hand into the camera and displa ed a golden band on his fourth finger"+this time I have a ring.+

Chapter 116
'<ead it, *r. !ecker2+ $ontaine ordered. ?abba sat sweating, hands poised over his ke board. '4es,+ he said, 'read the blessed inscription2+ -usan $letcher stood with them, weak%kneed and aglow. Ever one in the room had stopped what the were doing and stared up at the enormous pro0ection of &avid !ecker. The professor twisted the ring in his fingers and studied the engraving. 'And read arefu!!y47 ?abba commanded. '#ne t po, and we/re s re$ed47

$ontaine gave ?abba a harsh look. If there was one thing the director of the 7-A knew about, it was pressure situations; creating additional tension was never wise. '<ela3, *r. !ecker. If we make a mistake, we/ll reenter the code till we get it right.+ '!ad advice, *r. !ecker,+ ?abba snapped. '6et it right the first time. Gill%codes usuall have a penalt clause"to prevent trial%and%error guessing. *ake an incorrect entr , and the c cle will probabl accelerate. *ake t$o incorrect entries, and it will lock us out permanentl . 6ame over.+ The director frowned and turned back to the screen. '*r. !ecker) * mistake. <ead carefull "read extreme!y carefull .+ !ecker nodded and studied the ring for a moment. Then he calml began reciting the inscription. 'B5 D5 I5 -5 space5 15+ ?abba and -usan interrupted in unison. 5Spa e67 ?abba stopped t ping. 'There/s a spa e67 !ecker shrugged, checking the ring. '4eah. There/s a bunch of them.+ 'Am I missing something)+ $ontaine demanded. '(hat are we waiting for)+ '-ir,+ -usan said, apparentl puzzled. 'It/s5 it/s 0ust5+ 'I agree,+ ?abba said. 'It/s strange. Passwords ne.er have spaces.+ !rinkerhoff swallowed hard. '-o, what are ou sa ing)+ '.e/s sa ing,+ -usan inter0ected, 'that this ma not be a kill%code.+ !rinkerhoff cried out, '#f course it/s the kill%code2 (hat else could it be) (h else would Tankado give it awa ) (ho the hell inscribes a bunch of random letters on a ring)+ $ontaine silenced !rinkerhoff with a sharp glare. 'Ah5 folks)+ !ecker inter0ected, appearing hesitant to get involved. '4ou keep mentioning random letters. I think I should let ou know5 the letters on this ring arent random.+ Ever one on the podium blurted in unison. '(hat2+ !ecker looked uneas . '-orr , but there are definitel words here. I/ll admit the /re inscribed prett close together; at first glance it appears random, but if ou look closel ou/ll see the inscription is actuall 5 well5 it/s 3atin.7 ?abba gaped. '4ou/re shitting me2+ !ecker shook his head. '7o. It reads, EBuis ustodiet ipsos ustodes. It translates roughl to"+ '(ho will guard the guards2+ -usan interrupted, finishing &avid/s sentence. !ecker did a double%take. '-usan, I didn/t know ou could"+ 'It/s from Satires of ?uvenal,+ she e3claimed. '(ho will guard the guards) (ho will guard the 7-A while we guard the world) It was Tankado/s favorite sa ing2+ '-o,+ *idge demanded, 'is it the pass%ke , or not)+ 'It must be the pass%ke ,+ !rinkerhoff declared. $ontaine stood silent, apparentl processing the information. 'I don/t know if it/s the ke ,+ ?abba said. 'It seems unlikel to me that Tankado would use a nonrandom construction.+ '?ust omit the spaces,+ !rinkerhoff cried, 'and t pe the damn code2+ $ontaine turned to -usan. '(hat/s your take, *s. $letcher)+ -he thought a moment. -he couldn/t ;uite put her finger on it, but something didn/t feel right. -usan knew Tankado well enough to know he thrived on simplicit . .is proofs and programming were alwa s cr stalline and absolute. The fact that the spaces needed to be removed seemed odd. It was a minor detail, but it was a flaw, definitel not !ean "not what -usan would have e3pected as Ensei Tankado/s crowning blow. 'It doesn/t feel right,+ -usan finall said. 'I don/t think it/s the ke .+ $ontaine sucked in a long breath, his dark e es probing hers. '*s. $letcher, in our mind, if this is not the ke , wh would Ensei Tankado have given it awa ) If he knew we/d murdered him" don/t ou assume he/d want to punish us b making the ring disappear)+ A new voice interrupted the dialogue. 'Ah5 &irector)+

All e es turned to the screen. It was Agent 1oliander in -eville. .e was leaning over !ecker/s shoulder and speaking into the mic. '$or whatever it/s worth, I/m not so sure *r. Tankado &ne$ he was being murdered.+ 'I beg our pardon)+ $ontaine demanded. '.ulohot was a pro, sir. (e saw the kill"onl fift meters awa . All evidence suggests Tankado was unaware.+ 'Evidence)+ !rinkerhoff demanded. 5(hat evidence) Tankado gave awa this ring. That/s proof enough2+ 'Agent -mith,+ $ontaine interrupted. '(hat makes ou think Ensei Tankado was unaware he was being killed)+ -mith cleared his throat. '.ulohot killed him with an 7T!"a noninvasive trauma bullet. It/s a rubber pod that strikes the chest and spreads out. -ilent. :er clean. *r. Tankado would onl have felt a sharp thump before going into cardiac arrest.+ 'A trauma bullet,+ !ecker mused to himself. 'That e3plains the bruising.+ 'It/s doubtful,+ -mith added, 'that Tankado associated the sensation with a gunman.+ 'And et he gave awa his ring,+ $ontaine stated. 'True, sir. !ut he never looked for his assailant. A victim a!$ays looks for his assailant when he/s been shot. It/s instinct.+ $ontaine puzzled. 'And ou/re sa ing Tankado didn/t look for .ulohot)+ '7o, sir. (e have it on film if ou/d like"+ '[%eleven filter/s going2+ a technician elled. 'The worm/s halfwa there2+ '$orget the film,+ !rinkerhoff declared. 'T pe in the damn kill%code and finish this2+ ?abba sighed, suddenl the cool one. '&irector, if we enter the wrong code5+ '4es,+ -usan interrupted, 'if Tankado didn/t suspect we killed him, we/ve got some ;uestions to answer.+ '(hat/s our time frame, ?abba)+ $ontaine demanded. ?abba looked up at the :<. 'About twent minutes. I suggest we use the time wisel .+ $ontaine was silent a long moment. Then sighed heavil . 'All right. <un the film.+

Chapter 117
'Transmitting video in ten seconds,+ Agent -mith/s voice crackled. '(e/re dropping ever other frame as well as audio"we/ll run as close to real time as possible.+ Ever one on the podium stood silent, watching, waiting. ?abba t ped a few ke s and rearranged the video wall. Tankado/s message appeared on the far leftC
#7,4 T.E T<DT. (I,, -A:E 4#D 7#(

#n the right of the wall was the static interior shot of the van with !ecker and the two agents huddled around the camera. In the center, a fuzz frame appeared. It dissolved into static and then into a black and white image of a park. 'Transmitting,+ Agent -mith announced. The shot looked like an old movie. It was stilted and 0erk "a b %product of frame%dropping, a process that halved the amount of information sent and enabled faster transmission. The shot panned out across an enormous concourse enclosed on one end b a semicircular facade"the -eville A untamiento. There were trees in the foreground. The park was empt . '[%eleven/s are down2+ a technician called out. 'This bad bo /s hungr 2+ -mith began to narrate. .is commentar had the detachment of a seasoned agent. 'This is shot from the van,+ he said, 'about fift meters from the kill zone. Tankado is approaching from the right. .ulohot/s in the trees to the left.+

'(e/ve got a time crunch here,+ $ontaine pressed. ',et/s get to the meat of it.+ Agent 1oliander touched a few buttons, and the frame speed increased. Ever one on the podium watched in anticipation as their former associate, Ensei Tankado, came into the frame. The accelerated video made the whole image seem comic. Tankado shuffled 0erkil out onto the concourse, apparentl taking in the scener . .e shielded his e es and gazed up at the spires of the huge facade. 'This is it,+ -mith warned. '.ulohot/s a pro. .e took his first open shot.+ -mith was right. There was a flash of light from behind the trees on the left of the screen. An instant later Tankado clutched his chest. .e staggered momentaril . The camera zoomed in on him, unstable"in and out of focus. As the footage rolled in high speed, -mith coldl continued his narration. 'As ou can see, Tankado is instantl in cardiac arrest.+ -usan felt ill watching the images. Tankado clutched at his chest with crippled hands, a confused look of terror on his face. '4ou/ll notice,+ -mith added, 'his e es are focused downward, at himself. 7ot once does he look around.+ 'And that/s important)+ ?abba half stated, half in;uired. ':er ,+ -mith said. 'If Tankado suspected foul pla of an kind, he would instinctivel search the area. !ut as ou can see, he does not.+ #n the screen, Tankado dropped to his knees, still clutching his chest. .e never once looked up. Ensei Tankado was a man alone, d ing a private, natural death. 'It/s odd,+ -mith said, puzzled. 'Trauma pods usuall won/t kill this ;uickl . -ometimes, if the target/s big enough, the don/t kill at all.+ '!ad heart,+ $ontaine said flatl . -mith arched his e ebrows, impressed. '$ine choice of weapon, then.+ -usan watched as Tankado toppled from his knees to his side and finall onto his back. .e la , staring upward, grabbing at his chest. -uddenl the camera wheeled awa from him back toward the grove of trees. A man appeared. .e was wearing wire%rim glasses and carr ing an oversize briefcase. As he approached the concourse and the writhing Tankado, his fingers began tapping in a strange silent dance on a mechanism attached to his hand. '.e/s working his *onocle,+ -mith announced. '-ending a message that Tankado is terminated.+ -mith turned to !ecker and chuckled. ',ooks like .ulohot had a bad habit of transmitting kills before his victim actuall e3pired.+ 1oliander sped the film up some more, and the camera followed .ulohot as he began moving toward his victim. -uddenl an elderl man rushed out of a nearb court ard, ran over to Tankado, and knelt beside him. .ulohot slowed his approach. A moment later two more people appeared from the court ard"an obese man and a red%haired woman. The also came to Tankado/s side. 'Dnfortunate choice of kill zone,+ -mith said. '.ulohot thought he had the victim isolated.+ #n the screen, .ulohot watched for a moment and then shrank back into the trees, apparentl to wait. '.ere comes the handoff,+ -mith prompted. '(e didn/t notice it the first time around.+ -usan gazed up at the sickening image on the screen. Tankado was gasping for breath, apparentl tr ing communicate something to the -amaritans kneeling beside him. Then, in desperation, he thrust his left hand above him, almost hitting the old man in the face. .e held the crippled appendage outward before the old man/s e es. The camera tightened on Tankado/s three deformed fingers, and on one of them, clearl glistening in the -panish sun, was the golden ring. Tankado thrust it out again. The old man recoiled. Tankado turned to the woman. .e held his three deformed fingers directl in front of her face, as if begging her to understand. The ring glinted in the sun. The woman looked awa . Tankado, now choking, unable to make a sound, turned to the obese man and tried one last time. The elderl man suddenl stood and dashed off, presumabl to get help. Tankado seemed to be weakening, but he was still holding the ring in the fat man/s face. The fat man reached out and

held the d ing man/s wrist, supporting it. Tankado seemed to gaze upward at his own fingers, at his own ring, and then to the man/s e es. As a final plea before death, Ensei Tankado gave the man an almost imperceptible nod, as if to sa yes. Then Tankado fell limp. '?esus.+ ?abba moaned. -uddenl the camera swept to where .ulohot had been hiding. The assassin was gone. A police motorc cle appeared, tearing up Avenida $irelli. The camera wheeled back to where Tankado was l ing. The woman kneeling beside him apparentl heard the police sirens; she glanced around nervousl and then began pulling at her obese companion, begging him to leave. The two hurried off. The camera tightened on Tankado, his hands folded on his lifeless chest. The ring on his finger was gone.

Chapter 118
'It/s proof,+ $ontaine said decidedl . 'Tankado dumped the ring. .e wanted it as far from himself as possible"so we/d never find it.+ '!ut, &irector,+ -usan argued, 'it doesn/t make sense. If Tankado was unaware he/d been murdered, $hy would he give awa the kill code)+ 'I agree,+ ?abba said. 'The kid/s a rebel, but he/s a rebel with a conscience. 6etting us to admit to T<A7-,T< is one thing; revealing our classified databank is another.+ $ontaine stared, disbelieving. '4ou think Tankado $anted to stop this worm) 4ou think his d ing thoughts were for the poor 7-A)+ 'Tunnel%block corroding2+ a technician elled. '$ull vulnerabilit in fifteen minutes, ma3imum2+ 'I/ll tell ou what,+ the director declared, taking control. 'In fifteen minutes, ever Third (orld countr on the planet will learn how to build an intercontinental ballistic missile. If someone in this room thinks he/s got a better candidate for a kill code than this ring, I/m all ears.+ The director waited. 7o one spoke. .e returned his gaze to ?abba and locked e es. 'Tankado dumped that ring for a reason, ?abba. (hether he was tr ing to bur it, or whether he thought the fat gu would run to a pa phone and call us with the information, I reall don/t care. !ut I/ve made the decision. (e/re entering that ;uote. 7ow.+ ?abba took a long breath. .e knew $ontaine was right"there was no better option. The were running out of time. ?abba sat. '#ka 5 let/s do it.+ .e pulled himself to the ke board. '*r. !ecker) The inscription, please. 7ice and eas .+ &avid !ecker read the inscription, and ?abba t ped. (hen the were done, the double%checked the spelling and omitted all the spaces. #n the center panel of the view wall, near the top, were the lettersC
BDI-1D-T#&IETIP-#-1D-T#&E-

'I don/t like it,+ -usan muttered softl . 'It/s not clean.+ ?abba hesitated, hovering over the E7TE< ke . '&o it,+ $ontaine commanded. ?abba hit the ke . -econds later the whole room knew it was a mistake.

Chapter 119
'It/s accelerating2+ -oshi elled from the back of the room. 'It/s the wrong code2+ Ever one stood in silent horror.

#n the screen before them was the error messageC


I,,E6A, E7T<4. 7D*E<I1 $IE,& #7,4.

'&amn it2+ ?abba screamed. '7umeric on!y4 (e/re looking for a goddamn number2 (e/re fucked2 This ring is shit2+ '(orm/s at double speed2+ -oshi shouted. 'Penalt round2+ #n the center screen, right beneath the error message, the :< painted a terrif ing image. As the third firewall gave wa , the half%dozen or so black lines representing marauding hackers surged forward, advancing relentlessl toward the core. (ith each passing moment, a new line appeared. Then another. 'The /re swarming2+ -oshi elled. '1onfirming overseas tie%ins2+ cried another technician. '(ord/s out2+ -usan averted her gaze from the image of the collapsing firewalls and turned to the side screen. The footage of Ensei Tankado/s kill was on endless loop. It was the same ever time" Tankado clutching his chest, falling, and with a look of desperate panic, forcing his ring on a group of unsuspecting tourists. 8t ma&es no sense, she thought. 8f he didnt &no$ $ed &i!!ed him -usan drew a total blank. It was too late. (e.e missed something. #n the :<, the number of hackers pounding at the gates had doubled in the last few minutes. $rom now on, the number would increase e3ponentiall . .ackers, like h enas, were one big famil , alwa s eager to spread the word of a new kill. ,eland $ontaine had apparentl seen enough. '-hut it down,+ he declared. '-hut the damn thing down.+ ?abba stared straight ahead like the captain of a sinking ship. 'Too late, sir. (e/re going down.+

Chapter 120
The four%hundred%pound - s%-ec stood motionless, hands resting atop his head in a freeze%frame of disbelief. .e/d ordered a power shutdown, but it would be a good twent minutes too late. -harks with high%speed modems would be able to download staggering ;uantities of classified information in that window. ?abba was awakened from his nightmare b -oshi rushing to the podium with a new printout. 'I/ve found something, sir2+ she said e3citedl . '#rphans in the source2 Alpha groupings. All over the place2+ ?abba was unmoved. '(e/re looking for a numeric, dammit2 7ot an alpha2 The kill%code is a number47 '!ut we/ve got orphans2 Tankado/s too good to leave orphans"especiall this man 2+ The term 'orphans+ referred to e3tra lines of programming that didn/t serve the program/s ob0ective in an wa . The fed nothing, referred to nothing, led nowhere, and were usuall removed as part of the final debugging and compiling process. ?abba took the printout and studied it. $ontaine stood silent. -usan peered over ?abba/s shoulder at the printout. '(e/re being attacked b a rough draft of Tankado/s worm)+ 'Polished or not,+ ?abba retorted, 'it/s kicking our ass.+ 'I don/t bu it,+ -usan argued. 'Tankado was a perfectionist. 4ou know that. There/s no wa he left bugs in his program.+ 'There are lots of them2+ -oshi cried. -he grabbed the printout from ?abba and pushed it in front of -usan. ',ook2+

-usan nodded. -ure enough, after ever twent or so lines of programming, there were four free%floating characters. -usan scanned them. PFEE SESN RETM '$our%bit alpha groupings,+ she puzzled. 'The /re definitel not part of the programming.+ '$orget it,+ ?abba growled. '4ou/re grabbing at straws.+ '*a be not,+ -usan said. 'A lot of encr ption uses four%bit groupings. This could be a code.+ '4eah.+ ?abba groaned. 'It sa s"/.a, ha. 4ou/re fucked./ ' .e looked up at the :<. 'In about nine minutes.+ -usan ignored ?abba and locked in on -oshi. '.ow man orphans are there)+ -oshi shrugged. -he commandeered ?abba/s terminal and t ped all the groupings. (hen she was done, she pushed back from the terminal. The room looked up at the screen.
P$EE -E-7 <ET* *$.A I<(E ##I6 *EE7 7<*A

E7ET -.A- &17- IIAA IEE< !<7G $!,E ,#&I

-usan was the onl one smiling. '-ure looks familiar,+ she said. '!locks of four"0ust like Enigma.+ The director nodded. Enigma was histor /s most famous code%writing machine"the 7azis/ twelve%ton encr ption beast. It had encr pted in blocks of four. '6reat.+ .e moaned. '4ou wouldn/t happen to have one l ing around, would ou)+ 'That/s not the point2+ -usan said, suddenl coming to life. This was her specialt . 'The point is that this is a code. Tankado left us a clue2 .e/s taunting us, daring us to figure out the pass%ke in time. .e/s la ing hints 0ust out of our reach2+ 'Absurd,+ ?abba snapped. 'Tankado gave us onl one out"revealing T<A7-,T<. That was it. That was our escape. (e blew it.+ 'I have to agree with him,+ $ontaine said. 'I doubt there/s an wa Tankado would risk letting us off the hook b hinting at his kill%code.+ -usan nodded vaguel , but she recalled how Tankado had given them 7&AG#TA. -he stared up at the letters wondering if he were pla ing another one of his games. 'Tunnel block half gone2+ a technician called. #n the :<, the mass of black tie%in lines surged deeper into the two remaining shields. &avid had been sitting ;uietl , watching the drama unfold on the monitor before them. '-usan)+ he offered. 'I have an idea. Is that te3t in si3teen groupings of four)+ '#h, for 1hrist/s sake,+ ?abba said under his breath. '7ow ever one wants to pla )+ -usan ignored ?abba and counted the groupings. '4es. -i3teen.+ 'Take out the spaces,+ !ecker said firml . '&avid,+ -usan replied, slightl embarrassed. 'I don/t think ou understand. The groupings of four are"+ 'Take out the spaces,+ he repeated. -usan hesitated a moment and then nodded to -oshi. -oshi ;uickl removed the spaces. The result was no more enlightening.

P$EE-E-7<ET*P$.AI<(E##I6*EE77<*AE7ET-.A-&17-IIAAIEE< !<7G$!,E,#&I

?abba e3ploded. 'E7#D6.2 Pla time/s over2 This thing/s on double%speed2 (e/ve got about eight minutes here2 (e/re looking for a number, not a bunch of half%baked letters2+ '$our b si3teen,+ &avid said calml . '&o the math, -usan.+ -usan e ed &avid/s image on the screen. Do the math6 <es terrib!e at math4 -he knew &avid could memorize verb con0ugations and vocabular like a [ero3 machine, but math5) '*ultiplication tables,+ !ecker said. *ultiplication tables, -usan wondered. (hat is he talking about) '$our b si3teen,+ the professor repeated. 'I had to memorize multiplication tables in fourth grade.+ -usan pictured the standard grade school multiplication table. Four by sixteen. '-i3t %four,+ she said blankl . '-o what)+ &avid leaned toward the camera. .is face filled the frame. '-i3t %four letters5+ -usan nodded. '4es, but the /re"+ -usan froze. '-i3t %four letters,+ &avid repeated. -usan gasped. '#h m 6od2 &avid, ou/re a genius2+

Chapter 121
5Se.en minutes47 a technician called out. 'Eight rows of eight2+ -usan shouted, e3cited. -oshi t ped. $ontaine looked on silentl . The second to lastshield was growing thin. '-i3t %four letters2+ -usan was in control. 'It/s a perfect s;uare2+ 'Perfect s;uare)+ ?abba demanded. '-o $hat67 Ten seconds later -oshi had rearranged the seemingl randomletters on the screen. The were now in eight rows of eight. ?abbastudied the letters and threw up his hands in despair. The newla out was no more revealing than the original. PFEESESN R ETM PFHA IRWEOOIG M E E NN R MA ENETSHAS D C N S I I AA IEERBRNK FB LE LOD I '1lear as shit.+ ?abba groaned. '*s. $letcher,+ $ontaine demanded, 'e3plain ourself.+ All e es turned to -usan. -usan was staring up at the block of te3t. 6raduall she began nodding, then broke into a wide smile. '&avid, I/ll be damned2+ Ever one on the podium e3changed baffled looks. &avid winked at the tin image of -usan $letcher on the screen before him. '-i3t %four letters. ?ulius 1aesar strikes again.+ *idge looked lost. '(hat are ou talking about)+ '1aesar bo3.+ -usan beamed. '<ead top to bottom. Tankado/s sending us a message.+

Chapter 122

5Six minutes47 a technician called out. -usan shouted orders. '<et pe top to bottom2 <ead down, not across2+ -oshi furiousl moved down the columns, ret ping the te3t. '?ulius 1aesar sent codes this wa 2+ -usan blurted. '.is letter count was alwa s a perfect s;uare2+ '&one2+ -oshi elled. Ever one looked up at the newl arranged, single line of te3t on the wall%screen. '-till garbage,+ ?abba scoffed in disgust. ',ook at it. It/s totall random bits of"+ The words lodged in his throat. .is e es widened to saucers. '#h5 oh m 5+ $ontaine had seen it too. .e arched his e ebrows, obviousl impressed. *idge and !rinkerhoff both cooed in unison. '.ol 5 shit.+ The si3t %four letters now readC
P<I*E&I$$E<E71E!ET(EE7E,E*E7T-<E-P#7-I!,E$#<.I<#-.I*A A7&7A6A-AGI

'Put in the spaces,+ -usan ordered. '(e/ve got a puzzle to solve.+

Chapter 123
An ashen technician ran to the podium. 'Tunnel block/s about to go2+ ?abba turned to the :< onscreen. The attackers surged forward, onl a whisker awa from their assault on the fifth and final wall. The databank was running out of time. -usan blocked out the chaos around her. -he read Tankado/s bizarre message over and over.
P<I*E &I$$E<E71E !ET(EE7 .I<#-.I*A A7& 7A6A-AGI E,E*E7T<E-P#7-I!,E $#<

'It/s not even a ;uestion2+ !rinkerhoff cried. '.ow can it have an answer)+ '(e need a number,+ ?abba reminded. 'The kill%code is numeri .7 '-ilence,+ $ontaine said evenl . .e turned and addressed -usan. '*s. $letcher, ou/ve gotten us this far. I need our best guess.+ -usan took a deep breath. 'The kill%code entr field accepts numerics on!y. * guess is that this is some sort of clue as to the correct number. The te3t mentions .iroshima and 7agasaki"the two cities that were hit b atomic bombs. *a be the kill%code is related to the number of casualties, the estimated dollars of damage5+ -he paused a moment, rereading the clue. 'The word Edifference/ seems important. The prime differen e between 7agasaki and .iroshima. Apparentl Tankado felt the two incidents differed somehow.+ $ontaine/s e3pression did not change. 7onetheless, hope was fading fast. It seemed the political backdrops surrounding the two most devastating blasts in histor needed to be anal zed, compared, and translated into some magic number5 and all within the ne3t five minutes.

Chapter 124
'$inal shield under attack2+ #n the :<, the PE* authorization programming was now being consumed. !lack, penetrating lines engulfed the final protective shield and began forcing their wa toward its core.

Prowling hackers were now appearing from all over the world. The number was doubling almost ever minute. !efore long, an one with a computer"foreign spies, radicals, terrorists"would have access to all of the D.-. government/s classified information. As technicians tried vainl to sever power, the assembl on the podium studied the message. Even &avid and the two 7-A agents were tr ing to crack the code from their van in -pain.
P<I*E &I$$E<E71E !ET(EE7 $#<.I<#-.I*A A7& 7A6A-AGI E,E*E7T<E-P#7-I!,E

-oshi thought aloud. 'The elements responsible for .iroshima and 7agasaki5 Pearl .arbor) .irohito/s refusal to5+ '(e need a number,7 ?abba repeated, 'not political theories. (e/re talking mathemati s "not histor 2+ -oshi fell silent. '.ow about pa loads)+ !rinkerhoff offered. '1asualties) &ollars damage)+ '(e/re looking for an exa t figure,+ -usan reminded. '&amage estimates var .+ -he stared up at the message. 'The elements responsible5+ Three thousand miles awa , &avid !ecker/s e es flew open. 'Elements2+ he declared. '(e/re talking math, not histor 2+ All heads turned toward the satellite screen. 'Tankado/s pla ing word games2+ !ecker spouted. 'The word Eelements/ has multiple meanings2+ '-pit it out, *r. !ecker,+ $ontaine snapped. '.e/s talking about hemi a! elements"not sociopolitical ones2+ !ecker/s announcement met blank looks. 'Elements2+ he prompted. 'The periodic table2 9hemi a! elements2 &idn/t an of ou see the movie Fat Man and 3itt!e +oy "about the *anhattan Pro0ect) The two atomic bombs were different. The used different fuel"different e!ements4 + -oshi clapped her hands. '4es2 .e/s right2 I read that2 The two bombs used different fuels2 #ne used uranium and one used plutonium2 Two different elements2+ A hush swept across the room. 'Dranium and plutonium2+ ?abba e3claimed, suddenl hopeful. 'The clue asks for the differen e between the two elements2+ .e spun to his arm of workers. 'The difference between uranium and plutonium2 (ho knows what it is)+ !lank stares all around. '1ome on2+ ?abba said. '&idn/t ou kids go to college) -omebod 2 An bod 2 I need the difference between plutonium and uranium2+ 7o response. -usan turned to -oshi. 'I need access to the (eb. Is there a browser here)+ -oshi nodded. '7etscape/s sweetest.+ -usan grabbed her hand. '1ome on. (e/re going surfing.+

Chapter 125
'.ow much time)+ ?abba demanded from the podium. There was no response from the technicians in the back. The stood riveted, staring up at the :<. The final shield was getting dangerousl thin. 7earb , -usan and -oshi pored over the results of their (ebsearch. '#utlaw ,abs)+ -usan asked. '(ho are the )+ -oshi shrugged. '4ou want me to open it)+

'&amn right,+ she said. '-i3 hundred fort %seven te3t references to uranium, plutonium, and atomic bombs. -ounds like our best bet.+ -oshi opened the link. A disclaimer appeared. The information contained in this file is strictl for academic use onl . An la person attempting to construct an of the devices described runs the risk of radiation poisoning andHor self%e3plosion. '-elf%e3plosion)+ -oshi said. '?esus.+ '-earch it,+ $ontaine snapped over his shoulder. ',et/s see what we/ve got.+ -oshi plowed into the document. -he scrolled past a recipe for urea nitrate, an e3plosive ten times more powerful than d namite. The information rolled b like a recipe for butterscotch brownies. 'Plutonium and uranium,+ ?abba repeated. ',et/s focus.+ '6o back,+ -usan ordered. 'The document/s too big. $ind the table of contents.+ -oshi scrolled backward until she found it. I. *echanism of an Atomic !omb Ad Altimeter !d Air Pressure &etonator 1d &etonating .eads &d E3plosive 1harges Ed 7eutron &eflector $d Dranium V Plutonium 6d ,ead -hield .d $uses II. 7uclear $issionH7uclear $usion Ad $ission eA%!ombd V $usion e.%!ombd !d D%=F>, D%=FJ, and Plutonium III. .istor of the Atomic (eapons Ad &evelopment eThe *anhattan Pro0ectd !d &etonation @d .iroshima =d 7agasaki Fd ! %products of Atomic &etonations Ld !last Nones '-ection two2+ -usan cried. 'Dranium and plutonium2 6o2+ Ever one waited while -oshi found the right section. 'This is it,+ she said. '.old on.+ -he ;uickl scanned the data. 'There/s a lot of information here. A whole chart. .ow do we know which difference we/re looking for) #ne occurs naturall , one is man%made. Plutonium was first discovered b "+ 'A number,7 ?abba reminded. '(e need a number.7 -usan reread Tankado/s message. The prime differen e bet$een the e!ements the differen e bet$een $e need a number '(ait2+ she said. 'The word Edifference/ has multiple meanings. (e need a number "so we/re talking math. It/s another of Tankado/s word games"/difference/ means subtra tion.7 '4es2+ !ecker agreed from the screen overhead. '*a be the elements have different numbers of protons or something) If ou subtract"+ '.e/s right2+ ?abba said, turning to -oshi. 'Are there an numbers on that chart) Proton counts) .alf%lives) An thing we can subtract)+ 5Three minutes47 a technician called. '.ow about supercritical mass)+ -oshi ventured. 'It sa s the supercritical mass for plutonium is F>.= pounds.+

'4es2+ ?abba said. '1heck uranium2 (hat/s the supercritical mass of uranium)+ -oshi searched. 'Dm5 @@9 pounds.+ '#ne hundred ten)+ ?abba looked suddenl hopeful. '(hat/s F>.= from @@9)+ '-event %four point eight,+ -usan snapped. '!ut I don/t think"+ '#ut of m wa ,+ ?abba commanded, plowing toward the ke board. 'That/s got to be the kill%code2 The difference between their critical masses2 -event %four point eight2+ '.old on,+ -usan said, peering over -oshi/s shoulder. 'There/s more here. Atomic weights. 7eutron counts. E3traction techni;ues.+ -he skimmed the chart. 'Dranium splits into barium and kr pton; plutonium does something else. Dranium has K= protons and @L8 neutrons, but"+ '(e need the most ob.ious difference,+ *idge chimed in. 'The clue reads Ethe primary difference between the elements./ ' '?esus 1hrist2+ ?abba swore. '.ow do we know what Tankado considered the primary difference)+ &avid interrupted. 'Actuall , the clue reads prime, not primary.7 The word hit -usan right between the e es. 5Prime47 she e3claimed. 5Prime47 -he spun to ?abba. 'The kill%code is a prime number2 Think about it2 It makes perfect sense2+ ?abba instantl knew -usan was right. Ensei Tankado had built his career on prime numbers. Primes were the fundamental building blocks of all encr ption algorithms"uni;ue values that had no factors other than one and themselves. Primes worked well in code writing because the were impossible for computers to guess using t pical number%tree factoring. -oshi 0umped in. '4es2 It/s perfect2 Primes are essential to ?apanese culture2 .aiku uses primes. Three lines and s llable counts of fi.e, se.en, fi.e. All primes. The temples of G oto all have"+ 5*nough47 ?abba said. 'Even if the kill%code is a prime, so what2 There are endless possibilities2+ -usan knew ?abba was right. !ecause the number line was infinite, one could alwa s look a little farther and find another prime number. !etween zero and a million, there were over A9,999 choices. It all depended on how large a prime Tankado decided to use. The bigger it was, the harder it was to guess. 'It/ll be huge.+ ?abba groaned. '(hatever prime Tankado chose is sure to be a monster.+ A call went up from the rear of the room. 5T$o-minute $arning47 ?abba gazed up at the :< in defeat. The final shield was starting to crumble. Technicians were rushing ever where. -omething in -usan told her the were close. '(e can do this2+ she declared, taking control. '#f all the differences between uranium and plutonium, I bet onl one can be represented as a prime number2 That/s our final clue. The number we/re looking for is prime2+ ?abba e ed the uraniumHplutonium chart on the monitor and threw up his arms. 'There must be a hundred entries here2 There/s no wa we can subtract them all and check for primes.+ 'A lot of the entries are nonnumeri ,7 -usan encouraged. '(e can ignore them. Dranium/s natural, plutonium/s man%made. Dranium uses a gun barrel detonator, plutonium uses implosion. The /re not numbers, so the /re irrelevant2+ '&o it,+ $ontaine ordered. #n the :<, the final wall was eggshell thin. ?abba mopped his brow. 'All right, here goes nothing. -tart subtracting. I/ll take the top ;uarter. -usan, ou/ve got the middle. Ever bod else split up the rest. (e/re looking for a prime difference.+ (ithin seconds, it was clear the /d never make it. The numbers were enormous, and in man cases the units didn/t match up. 'It/s apples and goddamn oranges,+ ?abba said. '(e/ve got gamma ra s against electromagnetic pulse. $issionable against unfissionable. -ome is pure. -ome is percentage. It/s a mess2+ 'It/s got to be here,+ -usan said firml . '(e/ve got to think. There/s some difference between plutonium and uranium that we/re missing2 -omething simple2+

'Ah5 gu s)+ -oshi said. -he/d created a second document window and was perusing the rest of the #utlaw ,abs document. '(hat is it)+ $ontaine demanded. '$ind something)+ 'Dm, sort of.+ -he sounded uneas . '4ou know how I told ou the 7agasaki bomb was a plutonium bomb)+ '4eah,+ the all replied in unison. '(ell5+ -oshi took a deep breath. ',ooks like I made a mistake.+ '(hat2+ ?abba choked. '(e/ve been looking for the wrong thing)+ -oshi pointed to the screen. The huddled around and read the te3tC 5the common misconception that the 7agasaki bomb was a plutonium bomb. In fact, the device emplo ed uranium, like its sister bomb in .iroshima. *** '!ut"+ -usan gasped. 'If both elements were uranium, how are we supposed to find the difference between the two)+ '*a be Tankado made a mistake,+ $ontaine ventured. '*a be he didn/t know the bombs were the same.+ '7o.+ -usan sighed. '.e was a cripple because of those bombs. .e/d know the facts cold.+

Chapter 126
'#ne minute2+ ?abba e ed the :<. 'PE* authorization/s going fast. ,ast line of defense. And there/s a crowd at the door.+ '$ocus2+ $ontaine commanded. -oshi sat in front of the (eb browser and read aloud. 57agasaki bomb did not use plutonium but rather an artificiall neutron%saturated isotope of uranium =FJ.+ manufactured,

'&amn2+ !rinkerhoff swore. '!oth bombs used uranium. The elements responsible for .iroshima and 7agasaki were both uranium. There is no difference2+ '(e/re dead,+ *idge moaned. '(ait,+ -usan said. '<ead that last part again2+ -oshi repeated the te3t. '5artificiall manufactured, neutron%saturated isotope of uranium =FJ.+ '=FJ)+ -usan e3claimed. '&idn/t we 0ust see something that said .iroshima/s bomb used some other isotope of uranium)+ The all e3changed puzzled glances. -oshi franticall scrolled backward and found the spot. '%es4 It sa s here that the .iroshima bomb used a different isotope of uranium2+ *idge gasped in amazement. 'The /re both uranium"but the /re different kinds2+ '!oth uranium)+ ?abba muscled in and stared at the terminal. 'Apples and apples2 Perfect2+ '.ow are the two isotopes different)+ $ontaine demanded. 'It/s got to be something basic.+ -oshi scrolled through the document. '.old on5 looking5 oka 5+ '$ort %five seconds2+ a voice called out. -usan looked up. The final shield was almost invisible now. '.ere it is2+ -oshi e3claimed. '<ead it2+ ?abba was sweating. '(hat/s the difference2 There must be some difference between the two2+ '4es2+ -oshi pointed to her monitor. ',ook2+

The all read the te3tC 5two bombs emplo ed two different fuels5 precisel identical chemical characteristics. 7o ordinar chemical e3traction can separate the two isotopes. The are, with the e3ception of minute differences in weight, perfectl identical. 'Atomic weight2+ ?abba said, e3citedl . 'That/s it2 The onl difference is their $eights4 That/s the ke 2 6ive me their weights2 (e/ll subtract them2+ '.old on,+ -oshi said, scrolling ahead. 'Almost there2 %es47 Ever one scanned the te3t.
5difference in weight ver slight5

5gaseous diffusion to separate them5

5@9,9F=LKJ[@9f@FL as compared to @K,FKLJL[@9f=F. gg

'There the are2+ ?abba screamed. 'That/s it2 Those are the weights2+ 'Thirt seconds2+ '6o,+ $ontaine whispered. '-ubtract them. Buickl .+ ?abba palmed his calculator and started entering numbers. '(hat/s the asterisk)+ -usan demanded. 'There/s an asterisk after the figures2+ ?abba ignored her. .e was alread working his calculator ke s furiousl . '1areful2+ -oshi urged. '(e need an exa t figure.+ 'The asterisk,+ -usan repeated. 'There/s a footnote.+ -oshi clicked to the bottom of the paragraph. -usan read the asterisked footnote. -he went white. '#h5 dear 6od.+ ?abba looked up. '(hat)+ The all leaned in, and there was a communal sigh of defeat. The tin footnote readC gg@=h margin of error. Published figures var from lab to lab.

Chapter 127
There was a sudden and reverent silence among the group on the podium. It was as if the were watching an eclipse or volcanic eruption"an incredible chain of events over which the had no control. Time seemed to slow to a crawl. '(e/re losing it2+ a technician cried. 'Tie%ins2 All lines2+ #n the far%left screen, &avid and Agents -mith and 1oliander stared blankl into their camera. #n the :<, the final fire wall was onl a sliver. A mass of blackness surrounded it, hundreds of lines waiting to tie in. To the right of that was Tankado. The stilted clips of his final moments ran b in an endless loop. The look of desperation"fingers stretched outward, the ring glistening in the sun. -usan watched the clip as it went in and out of focus. -he stared at Tankado/s e es"the seemed filled with regret. <e ne.er $anted it to go this far, she told herself. <e $anted to sa.e us. And et, over and over, Tankado held his fingers outward, forcing the ring in front of people/s e es. .e was tr ing to speak but could not. .e 0ust kept thrusting his fingers forward. In -eville, !ecker/s mind still turned it over and over. .e mumbled to himself, '(hat did the sa those two isotopes were) D=FJ and D5)+ .e sighed heavil "it didn/t matter. .e was a language teacher, not a ph sicist.

'Incoming lines preparing to authenticate2+ '?esus2+ ?abba bellowed in frustration. '.ow do the damn isotopes differ6 7obod knows how the hell the /re different)2+ There was no response. The room full of technicians stood helplessl watching the :<. ?abba spun back to the monitor and threw up his arms. '(here/s a nuclear fucking ph sicist when ou need one2+ *** -usan stared up at the BuickTime clip on the wall screen and knew it was over. In slow motion, she watched Tankado d ing over and over. .e was tr ing to speak, choking on his words, holding out his deformed hand5 tr ing to communicate something. <e $as trying to sa.e the databan&, -usan told herself. +ut $e!! ne.er &no$ ho$. '1ompan at the door2+ ?abba stared at the screen. '.ere we go2+ -weat poured down his face. #n the center screen, the final wisp of the last firewall had all but disappeared. The black mass of lines surrounding the core was opa;ue and pulsating. *idge turned awa . $ontaine stood rigid, e es front. !rinkerhoff looked like he was about to get sick. 'Ten seconds2+ -usan/s e es never left Tankado/s image. The desperation. The regret. .is hand reached out, over and over, ring glistening, deformed fingers arched crookedl in stranger/s faces. <es te!!ing them something. (hat is it6 #n the screen overhead, &avid looked deep in thought. '&ifference,+ he kept muttering to himself. '&ifference between D=FJ and D=F>. It/s got to be something simple.+ A technician began the countdown. 5Fi.e4 Four4 Three47 The word made it to -pain in 0ust under a tenth of a second. Three three. It was as if &avid !ecker had been hit b the stun gun all over again. .is world slowed to stop. Three three three. IHJ minus IHK4 The differen e is three2 In slow motion, he reached for the microphone5 At that ver instant, -usan was staring at Tankado/s outstretched hand. -uddenl , she saw past the ring5 past the engraved gold to the flesh beneath5 to his fingers. Three fingers. It was not the ring at all. It was the flesh. Tankado was not telling them, he was showing them. .e was telling his secret, revealing the kill%code"begging someone to understand5 pra ing his secret would find its wa to the 7-A in time. 'Three,+ -usan whispered, stunned. 5Three47 !ecker elled from -pain. !ut in the chaos, no one seemed to hear. 5(ere do$n47 a technician elled. The :< began flashing wildl as the core succumbed to a deluge. -irens erupted overhead. '#utbound data2+ '.igh%speed tie%ins in all sectors2+ -usan moved as if through a dream. -he spun toward ?abba/s ke board. As she turned, her gaze fi3ed on her fiancO, &avid !ecker. Again his voice e3ploded overhead. 'Three2 The difference between =F> and =FJ is three2+ Ever one in the room looked up. 5Three47 -usan shouted over the deafening cacophon of sirens and technicians. -he pointed to the screen. All e es followed, to Tankado/s hand, outstretched, three fingers waving desperatel in the -evillian sun. ?abba went rigid. '#h m 6od2+ .e suddenl realized the crippled genius had been giving them the answer all the time. 'Three/s prime2+ -oshi blurted. 'Three/s a prime number2+ $ontaine looked dazed. '1an it be that simple)+

'#utbound data2+ a technician cried. 'It/s going fast2+ Ever one on the podium dove for the terminal at the same instant"a mass of outstretched hands. !ut through the crowd, -usan, like a shortstop stabbing a line drive, connected with her target. -he t ped the number F. Ever one wheeled to the wall screen. Above the chaos, it simpl read.
E7TE< PA--%GE4) F

'4es2+ $ontaine commanded. '&o it now2+ -usan held her breath and lowered her finger on the E7TE< ke . The computer beeped once. 7obod moved. Three agonizing seconds later, nothing had happened. The sirens kept going. $ive seconds. -i3 seconds. '#utbound data2+ '7o change2+ -uddenl *idge began pointing wildl to the screen above. ',ook2+ #n it, a message had materialized.
GI,, 1#&E 1#7$I<*E&.

'Dpload the firewalls2+ ?abba ordered. !ut -oshi was a step ahead of him. -he had alread sent the command. 5)utbound interrupt47 a technician elled. 'Tie%ins severed2+ #n the :< overhead, the first of the five firewalls began reappearing. The black lines attacking the core were instantl severed. '<einstating2+ ?abba cried. 'The damn thing/s reinstating2+ There was a moment of tentative disbelief, as if at an instant, ever thing would fall apart. !ut then the second firewall began reappearing5 and then the third. *oments later the entire series of filters reappeared. The databank was secure. The room erupted. Pandemonium. Technicians hugged, tossing computer printouts in the air in celebration. -irens wound down. !rinkerhoff grabbed *idge and held on. -oshi burst into tears. '?abba,+ $ontaine demanded. '.ow much did the get)+ ':er little,+ ?abba said, stud ing his monitor. ':er little. And nothing complete.+ $ontaine nodded slowl , a wr smile forming in the corner of his mouth. .e looked around for -usan $letcher, but she was alread walking toward the front of the room. #n the wall before her, &avid !ecker/s face filled the screen. '&avid)+ '.e , gorgeous.+ .e smiled. '1ome home,+ she said. '1ome home, right now.+ '*eet ou at -tone *anor)+ he asked. -he nodded, the tears welling. '&eal.+ 'Agent -mith)+ $ontaine called. -mith appeared onscreen behind !ecker. '4es, sir)+ 'It appears *r. !ecker has a date. 1ould ou see that he gets home immediatel )+ -mith nodded. '#ur 0et/s in *Tlaga.+ .e patted !ecker on the back. '4ou/re in for a treat, Professor. Ever flown in a ,ear0et 89)+ !ecker chuckled. '7ot since esterda .+

Chapter 128
(hen -usan awoke, the sun was shining. the soft ra s sifted through the curtains and filtered across her goosedown feather bed. -he reached for &avid. Am 8 dreaming6 .er bod remained motionless, spent, still dizz from the night before. '&avid)+ -he moaned. There was no repl . -he opened her e es, her skin still tingling. The mattress on the other side of the bed was cold. &avid was gone. 8m dreaming, -usan thought. -he sat up. The room was :ictorian, all lace and anti;ues" -tone *anor/s finest suite. .er overnight bag was in the middle of the hardwood floor5 her lingerie on a Bueen Anne chair beside the bed. .ad &avid reall arrived) -he had memories"his bod against hers, his waking her with soft kisses. .ad she dreamed it all) -he turned to the bedside table. There was an empt bottle of champagne, two glasses5 and a note. <ubbing the sleep from her e es, -usan drew the comforter around her naked bod and read the message. &earest -usan, I love ou. (ithout wa3, &avid. -he beamed and pulled the note to her chest. It was &avid, all right. (ithout $ax it was the one code she had et to break. -omething stirred in the corner, and -usan looked up. #n a plush divan, basking in the morning sun, wrapped in thick bathrobe, &avid !ecker sat ;uietl watching her. -he reached out, beckoning him to come to her. '(ithout wa3)+ she cooed, taking him in her arms. '(ithout wa3.+ .e smiled. -he kissed him deepl . 'Tell me what it means.+ '7o chance.+ .e laughed. 'A couple needs secrets"it keeps things interesting.+ -usan smiled co l . 'An more interesting than last night and I/ll never walk again.+ &avid took her in his arms. .e felt weightless. .e had almost died esterda , and et here he was, as alive as he had ever felt in his life. -usan la with her head on his chest, listening to the beat of his heart. -he couldn/t believe that she had thought he was gone forever. '&avid.+ -he sighed, e eing the note beside the table. 'Tell me about Ewithout wa3./ 4ou know I hate codes I can/t break.+ &avid was silent. 'Tell me.+ -usan pouted. '#r ou/ll never have me again.+ ',iar.+ -usan hit him with a pillow. 'Tell me2 7ow2+ !ut &avid knew he would never tell. The secret behind 'without wa3+ was too sweet. Its origins were ancient. &uring the <enaissance, -panish sculptors who made mistakes while carving e3pensive marble often patched their flaws with era "+wa3.+ A statue that had no flaws and re;uired no patching was hailed as a 'sculpture sin era7 or a 'sculpture without wa3.+ The phrase eventuall came to mean an thing honest or true. The English word 'sincere+ evolved from the -panish sin era "+without wa3.+ &avid/s secret code was no great m ster "he was simpl signing his letters '-incerel .+ -omehow he suspected -usan would not be amused. '4ou/ll be pleased to know,+ &avid said, attempting to change the sub0ect, 'that during the flight home, I called the president of the universit .+ -usan looked up, hopeful. 'Tell me ou resigned as department chair.+ &avid nodded. 'I/ll be back in the classroom ne3t semester.+ -he sighed in relief. '<ight where ou belonged in the first place.+

&avid smiled softl . '4eah, I guess -pain reminded me what/s important.+ '!ack to breaking coeds/ hearts)+ -usan kissed his cheek. '(ell, at least ou/ll have time to help me edit m manuscript.+ '*anuscript)+ '4es. I/ve decided to publish.+ 'Publish)+ &avid looked doubtful. 'Publish $hat67 '-ome ideas I have on variant filter protocols and ;uadratic residues.+ .e groaned. '-ounds like a real best%seller.+ -he laughed. '4ou/d be surprised.+ &avid fished inside the pocket of his bathrobe and pulled out a small ob0ect. '1lose our e es. I have something for ou.+ -usan closed her e es. ',et me guess"a gaud gold ring with ,atin all over it)+ '7o.+ &avid chuckled. 'I had $ontaine return that to Ensei Tankado/s estate.+ .e took -usan/s hand and slipped something onto her finger. ',iar.+ -usan laughed, opening her e es. 'I knew"+ !ut -usan stopped short. The ring on her finger was not Tankado/s at all. It was a platinum setting that held a glittering diamond solitaire. -usan gasped. &avid looked her in the e e. '(ill ou marr me)+ -usan/s breath caught in her throat. -he looked at him and then back to the ring. .er e es suddenl welled up. '#h, &avid5 I don/t know what to sa .+ '-a es.+ -usan turned awa and didn/t sa a word. &avid waited. '-usan $letcher, I love ou. *arr me.+ -usan lifted her head. .er e es were filled with tears. 'I/m sorr , &avid,+ she whispered. 'I5 I can/t.+ &avid stared in shock. .e searched her e es for the pla ful glimmer he/d come to e3pect from her. It wasn/t there. '-%-usan,+ he stammered. 'I"I don/t understand.+ 'I can/t,+ she repeated. 'I can/t marr ou.+ -he turned awa . .er shoulders started trembling. -he covered her face with her hands. &avid was bewildered. '!ut, -usan5 I thought5+ .e held her trembling shoulders and turned her bod toward him. It was then that he understood. -usan $letcher was not cr ing at all; she was in h sterics. 'I won/t marr ou2+ -he laughed, attacking again with the pillow. '7ot until ou e3plain Ewithout wa3/2 4ou/re driving me ra/y47

Epilogue
The sa in death, all things become clear. Tokugen 7umataka now knew it was true. -tanding over the casket in the #saka customs office, he felt a bitter clarit he had never known. .is religion spoke of circles, of the interconnectedness of life, but 7umataka had never had time for religion. The customs officials had given him an envelope of adoption papers and birth records. '4ou are this bo /s onl living relative,+ the had said. '(e had a hard time finding ou.+ 7umataka/s mind reeled back thirt %two ears to that rain%soaked night, to the hospital ward where he had deserted his deformed child and d ing wife. .e had done it in the name of menboku" honor"an empt shadow now. There was a golden ring enclosed with the papers. It was engraved with words 7umataka did not understand. It made no difference; words had no meaning for 7umataka an more. .e had forsaken his onl son. And now, the cruelest of fates had reunited them.