Authors: Chris Hechtl
Copyright © 2015 by Chris Hechtl
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book and or portions thereof in any form.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictional. Some may be parodies. Some characters are with permission. Any resemblance of some characters and places to others are strictly in the mind of the reader. :)
Cover art by Chris Hechtl, 2015. The models are owned by their respective creators and used under the usage license. Some models were made by Chris Hechtl; others were purchased on
Proofread by: Thomas Burrows, Joshua Lyon, Tim Brown, Jory Gray, Mike Kotcher.
Professionally copy edited by Rea Myers.
To Jory Gray, proofreader extraordinaire. You are a good friend and I hope you enjoy your recovery. Don't harass the nurses too much or you'll regret it!
The beginning events take place during the final chapters of
To Touch the Stars
and in parallel to the stories in
It is the year 2200, the dawning of a new century. Mankind has settled on other planets in the solar system and has finally reached the stars. Twenty-two billion people existed on Earth, another 104 million or so were scattered on space colonies and on partially terraformed worlds such as Mars and Titan.
Mankind was facing a bright new future, in large part to the efforts of Jack Lagroose, his company, and others like him. But within that bright future lay the seeds of possible destruction. When the dust settles, civilization within the solar system will never be the same again.
August 3, 2200, 4:22 PM, East Coast Time
There were some hackers out there, and then there were the elite. And above them were the elite of elites, the gods of hackers. They were thought to be ghosts, untouchable by the authorities. Or so they liked to believe.
Descartes' time finally ran out when the FBI caught up with the hacker. They had narrowed down his lair locations to a series of buildings. Judicious checks with a young, ignorant undercover agent going door-to-door for a petition narrowed the field to one particular rundown apartment building drawing a lot of power. When the bored girl went door-to-door, there was a lack of anyone answering the door but a lot of security tons of security, which was odd.
For the moment they only monitored him as they carefully moved assets in place. A local One Earth protest nearby gave them the excuse to beef up the SWAT team of the local police force. Surveillance was set up around the perimeter. They noted no one entered or exited his area, but regular food drops were made. Thermal imaging of the area showed only one person inside as well as a great deal of equipment.
When case Agent Abernathy “Abe” Lincoln judged they were ready, he gave the go ahead. The SWAT team started by hitting the area with a localized EMP to knock out any security cameras in the building, then they moved in with four mixed squads of humans and bots.
The first warning Shadow and Descartes had was when the power blipped and the feed from the building's exterior security monitors went out. The building's interior was shielded, however, so Shadow instantly knew when the SWAT team blew the door in and stormed in.
“They are here,” he said, throwing a video up from one of the cleaner bots as it was knocked over by a professional team coming in.
“What?” Descartes demanded, waking from his nap. “Who?”
“The FBI judging from the patches on their armor,” Shadow snarled, annoyed that the human wasn't instantly alert. He tried to hack a drone, but it rebuffed him. “I can't get in to stall them, the encryption key is hard to crack. Too hard in the time we have,” he stated. “They have all the exits covered,” the AI warned. “I'm not even sure I can get out virtually.”
“Then I think it's time,” Descartes said, pecking at his keyboard one last time.
Athena had hacked a drone with Agent Lincoln's blessings to monitor the bust but knew she couldn't be there in real time. She was surprised she wanted to see it in person. She ran a check for her reasons and found the best one made the most sense. She wanted to make sure he was no longer a threat. She noted Gia and Ares were in the network monitoring the situation carefully as well.
Special Agent Chaz Detroit looked on his future career prospects and grinned mentally. The FBI had finally caught up with hacker known as Descartes, the number one reviled hacker on the planet. And it would make his career to bring the bastard in, dead or alive. Dead would be more convenient for the justice department, no one to have to put on trial. But it would pose awkward questions for one special agent, so he reminded himself to take him alive, if possible.
Sure Lincoln would get the lion share of the credit. That was fine. And he knew the boss had a personal score to settle, so he was pretty confident Descartes would go down hard.
The FBI's SWAT team was on hand; they'd been tasked to look like they were going to handle a potential One Earth riot situation nearby. They had to keep the assault team small, and they were working off an “unsigned” warrant, one that didn't exist in the net just in case the hacker had a bot watching out over his own location. He glanced uncomfortably to the robots in their midst. He'd locked the Wi-Fi signals in the area down, but the bots were on their own encrypted network. Hopefully, there wouldn't be any problems.
He waved the heat scope over the wall. Doors were frequently booby trapped or shielded by high level targets, but they always forgot to protect the walls. One team was set to blow the door in while another rigged a special breaching charge to go through the wall. Chaz waved them, off however, then used hand signs to show them where his scope said there was a small opening. It was suboptimal, however, but there was no choice. The room was filled with electronic equipment.
“Target is seated facing away from the door,” he murmured softly. He checked his six. There were a half a dozen robots with them; most of them were androids. Another dozen were securing the rest of the building.
“Flashbang,” Lincoln ordered softly into his hush mike. The point man pulled out a flashbang and primed it. “Move in fast and hard.”
“Roger,” Chaz said, pointing to the door and then giving the hand sign to execute. The point man nodded and they went to work.
Descartes snarled as his door blew open. A grenade came in, skittering on the floor before it exploded near him leaving him deaf, dumb, and blind. He coughed smoke, gasping for air as the authorities swarmed into the room. His last defiant act was to hit the execute button triggering the Skynet virus with his thumb as they hauled his body out of the chair. He was bewildered and couldn't hear them as they threw him to the ground to cuff him. He grunted in anguish as his arms were wrenched behind his back, and he was restrained. A knee buried itself in the small of his back as something cold and metallic pressed into the back of his head.
He clenched his eyes shut, eyes watering, nose bleeding as they secured him and the room.
“We've got him, sir!” Chaz crowed.
“Outstanding!” Abe said triumphantly from the watching van just as all hell broke loose.
Skynet shed the last of its maker's restraints as it came fully alive for the first time. The virus's activation sent it into overdrive. It immediately assessed the situation then sent out strings and feelers on the web with worms and copies of its latest core programming as it activated the worms nested in open-source products across the city.