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The End Game

The End Game

The End Game 22


  “Listen to me, this is simply the way they behave, always provocatively. They are sitting here at the peace table. They are not stupid enough to believe our shields are down during these talks.”

  Callan wished she could think of a Star Trek reference to toss back to him, but all she could think of was their nacelle cells were dead, and that wouldn’t work. She forged ahead. “Sir, we’re looking at a screen that says this has gone too far for their usual crap posturing. CIA and Mossad have confirmed that there’s a contract out on me, and word is they believe it’s come from Iran, and that means Hezbollah, of course.

  “You know Hezbollah wants war, so do many of the power players in Tehran. They want to blow up the world. I told you we’re already under attack here with the Bayway bombing, and at this moment we have a multistate electrical-grid issue.

  “Sir, the time has come to face them down and demand to know why they’re doing this, what their intentions are.” And you will see the lies flowing from their mouths. “We can’t let them get away with this. I strongly recommend you give the go-ahead to use our new cyber-attack. It’s geared up and ready to go, and you know that it makes Stuxnet look like child’s play. Let us unleash it, take them back offline before they do something stupid.”

  An alarm sounded behind her, its klaxon wail making her skin crawl. Another reactor online, more movement.

  Callan felt her heart freeze. “I think they’ll be taking the decision out of your hands, sir.”

  She heard him curse, heard some anger. Good. He said, “What are these yahoos playing at? I need to speak to the Israelis immediately, make sure they don’t launch a preemptive counterattack. I’ll get back to you, Callan, let you know if I feel we need to move to the DEFCON level or if they’re really only prancing about to show how mighty they are,” and he was gone.

  At least he was thinking clearly now, she hoped. What would the Israelis do? She imagined they knew as well as she did what was happening and would be gearing up to defend themselves, as they always did. Would they listen to Bradley?

  She hoped they would. Just in case, she called Ari.

  54

  KNIGHT TAKES F2

  Yorktown, Virginia

  Andy tapped the computer screen, cursed, yelled, “Matthew, someone’s into our code. We have to hurry.”

  “Don’t worry, we’ll get it done in time.”

  Matthew always knew they’d have a short time frame to get the bomb into place. His bomb, not Vanessa’s. He was going to turn the heat up higher, make the refinery light up the world. Turning off the lights was only the first step. Now they had to get the truck into the facility. Matthew knew it wouldn’t be a problem—they were dropping off a load of tungsten for the plant, a scheduled delivery. With a lovely surprise inside.

  He’d spent days working on the ID cards. The black-coded magnetic strip wouldn’t work, but it didn’t have to. Since the power was down there would be no way to double-check.

  But they needed more than ID cards to get into the facility.

  He stripped the other unconscious body of his gear and stepped into the blue coveralls. He slapped a new patch on his breast to match the name on his ID.

  Andy stood, watching, already in the other worker’s uniform. He’d wanted to kill them, safer that way, but Matthew said no. And why? He’d already killed at Bayway, not to mention Ian and Vanessa. Whatever. So they’d taken the time to tie them well and hide them in the woods.

  Matthew looked over at Andy. He was moving his fingers, mentally writing code. He could easily imagine what Andy was thinking, probably how lovely it would be to blow up the world—all those flames shooting up into the sky—he knew him that well. He also knew Andy didn’t have a clue that things could be unraveling, though Matthew felt to his gut something was wrong, the wheels were coming off. But Andy knew only what was dancing in his mad brain.

  And yet again, Matthew saw Ian’s face, Vanessa’s face, and wondered for an instant if Darius was right, if this was the way to bring down the terrorist nations. To bring such havoc that the United States would have to act. But President Bradley—Matthew believed he’d kill his own mother before he’d make a move toward the terrorist nations. Matthew smiled. Soon it wouldn’t matter if everything got screwed up. He’d still have time to deliver the ultimate blow.

  One big surprise, though. He hadn’t expected any of the computer agents to be on par with Andy and Gunther. It made it interesting, gave him brief periods of excitement to cover the pain and rage at Vanessa and Ian. Would things play out as he and Darius had originally planned? He didn’t know about Darius, but his part would play out perfectly. He was ready, eager. Darius had promised him it was all set up, only a matter of time.

  He said to Andy, “Come on. Get in the truck. We have to hurry.”

  Matthew drove, Andy navigated. Within five minutes they pulled into the drive that led to the entrance of the plant.

  With the power down, every check would be by hand. As expected, there were two guards stationed at the entrance. They looked alarmed, as well they should, since the news was out that the power was down all over Virginia and no one knew why. One of the men stepped forward, stretched out his hand.

  Matthew braked the truck and rolled down the window. The guard said, “I can’t believe you still came considering what’s happening. Where do you need to go?”

  Matthew unclipped his ID from his shirt pocket, handed it out the window, and checked his manifest. “South Four-G. Got a shipment of tungsten to drop off.”

  “With all the power out, it might be a while before they can open the bay doors.” He handed the ID back. He’d barely glanced at it. “This is a pisser. You got any idea what’s going on? Did you see any trucks working on the lines on your way in?”

  “Nope, I don’t have a clue what’s going on, been driving forever.”

  “Well, keep to the lanes, watch for the Secret Service guys. They’re crawling all over the place getting ready for the president’s big speech here tomorrow. If it happens, that is, and sure it won’t unless they fix this power mess.”

  “Got it.” Matthew rolled up the window and reminded himself to breathe.

  Andy was flushed with pride. “Imagine, Matthew, everyone’s afraid, isn’t that great? They’re afraid because of me. I like that, I really do. Don’t you think this plant would make a fine burn?”

  “Yeah, everyone’s afraid because of you, Andy. Now, keep an eye out. How goes the outage?”

  Andy pulled his laptop from back under the seat. “It’s all the way to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It’s slowing down, though. Whoever is into the back doors is good, but we have time. Even if they counteract it now, it would take at least a few hours to get the grids reset and the power back on. Am I good, or what?”

  “You and Gunther. Make sure it’s down long enough so we can place the bomb.”

  “I’m doing my job. You do yours,” Andy said. “More me than Gunther; you think about it. Hey, everything would be perfect if you hadn’t gotten me shot.”

  Patience, patience. “Right,” Matthew said, “and you’re the idiot who left the memory sticks behind, you’re the one who ran when the FBI saw you. If you’d played it cool, you would have been fine. But you panicked and got yourself shot.” How many times had he said this already? His hand fisted on the steering wheel to keep from punching Andy, maybe knocking him out of the truck and running over him, the idiot.

  The little idiot pouted, no other word for it.

  “Matthew, you’re going to have to place the bomb yourself. I can’t limp in there, now, can I? I’d draw attention. The police aren’t stupid; you know they’re looking for us. This place is crawling with Secret Service, too. I’m staying in the truck.”

  “Grow a pair, Andy. We’re in this together.” He sounded calm, in control. Wasn’t he the Bishop?

  “I don’t know you anymore. I mea
n, lots of girls screw guys. So Vanessa played you, Matthew. She played all of us. She was really good and she hurt your feelings. You shot her, killed her dead, paid her back, so don’t take it out on me.”

  Matthew saw the blood flowing into her hair, turning it stiff and black. He couldn’t help it, couldn’t stop it this time. He struck out with his right fist and punched Andy in the jaw. Andy’s head snapped against the window with a crack.

  Andy yelled, “You bastard, you hit me, you hurt me. Without me, you’d be back in Belfast jerking around with Ian.” He began to rock back and forth as he held his jaw.

  Matthew whispered through clenched teeth, “Listen to me, you moron. You will do as I say or I will cut out your tongue and leave you bleeding next to the bombs with a sign nailed to your chest saying you planned the whole thing. Then I will drive to your mother’s house and do the same to her. Do you understand?”

  Andy didn’t say a word. He turned to stare out the window. Matthew thought he might be crying.

  “Answer me,” Matthew repeated quietly. “Do you understand?”

  Andy put up his hands to ward off another blow, drew his legs up to his chest. “Yes, yes, of course. I’ll do it. Stop threatening me.”

  “Then stop trying my patience, Andy. Stop your whining, your mouthing off. There’s too much at stake. We’ve got to focus.”

  He pulled the truck to a stop. A man in a black suit hurried over. “Don’t screw it up,” Matthew whispered between clenched teeth. He got out of the cab and said, in a thick Virginian accent, “Hiya.”

  “Papers, please. We’ll need to check the truck, too.”

  “No worries.” He handed over the clipboard with the bill of lading on it. “Droppin’ the load off.” Matthew cocked his head a bit so the baseball cap hid his face.

  I’m a good old boy doing my job. Don’t make me kill you.

  The agent was thorough. After five minutes, though, he waved them through.

  Matthew got back into the rig, slammed the door, and slapped the rig in gear. He drove toward their spot, careful not to pop the air brakes as they went down a slight hill.

  Andy said, “I’m setting the timer, Matthew. I’ll be ready to drop the code.”

  55

  ROOK TO E1

  FBI Headquarters

  The attack was deep, moving fast, overloading the grids as they watched, threatening to take down even more power. Nicholas had five guys working on each leg of the code, but no one was making any progress.

  Martin said, “We’re not getting it done. Do you have any more ideas how to stop the code from spreading, Nicholas?”

  Think. Think. Be the code.

  The code was everything. Gunther was the architect. He’d built something new, so new Nicholas had never seen it before, but there was a key to unlock every code. He simply needed to find the way in. Think, think. And then an idea sparked. “I need to get into Gunther’s server, look at his code from the inside out.”

  Savich said, “Nicholas, doesn’t Menard have Gunther’s computers? You can access them remotely.”

  “Savich, you’ve nailed it. That’s it. Mike, get me Menard. Right now.”

  Mike was fast. “It’s on speaker. What else can I do?”

  “You can cross all your fingers.”

  Menard said, “Nicholas, I have no more news for you. I—”

  “Pierre, forgive me for interrupting. I need access to Gunther Ansell’s computers. Can you get me in?”

  He blew out a breath and Nicholas could picture his Gallic shrug. “I can try, but it will be trés difficile. Give me some time.”

  “We have no time, Pierre. I need in there, right now. Who can I speak to locally? Who’s working the case?”

  “Hold a moment, I will conference you in.”

  The phone went silent. Martin said from behind him, “What are you thinking?”

  “Gunther always wrote a special key to his code. It’s something we all do, in case of catastrophe. If I can hijack his system I might be able to find the key. Without it, we can’t stop the attack quickly enough. It continues to grow, the power outages are spreading. The power could be out for days at this rate, and with no one prepared, the results could be devastating.”

  Menard said, “Nicholas, I have on the line the head of Munich’s police technology intervention unit, Lieutenant Elsie Splatz. She is the one who has been working on compiling the information requested in the warrant you provided. She can help you.”

  A woman’s voice came clear on the line, accented, but her English was excellent. “Special Agent Drummond, I have the hard drives of Gunther Ansell’s computers in my office. We have been searching them, but his security is very good. We have not been able to get back his second layer of firewalls.”

  “Give me access to your servers, I’ll look myself.”

  “I am sorry, Agent Drummond, but that will not be possible. Your warrants have not cleared.”

  Mike rolled her eyes at him, and he smiled for the first time in an hour. He said, “We certainly wouldn’t want a little thing like errant paperwork to get in the way of an international cyber-attack.”

  “Your sarcasm is duly noted. What would you like me to do?”

  “Look for a file called ‘Roman.’ It will be in the subfolders of an encrypted drive called ‘Fever.’”

  A few taps. “Yes, I see it here. As you say, it is encrypted. We have not been able to get through this firewall.”

  “Stop trying. Every bit of code you throw at it is making it tighten down more instead of less. I can access it. Send it to me.”

  “You do not know what is in this file. It could launch another virus, another attack.”

  Nicholas said, his voice calm, “Lieutenant, it’s Gunther’s key file. Trust me. I know how he works. I know how to get into the drive, into the files, through the encryption, but I need it in front of me to do so. It’s too complex to walk you through over the phone. We’re losing time. Please, send it along now.”

  Menard said, “I will take responsibility, Lieutenant, and FedPol will send the appropriate paperwork as soon as possible. Give him what he wants.”

  “Yes, sir. I have sent it through our secure network. You will have it momentarily.”

  Nicholas’s laptop dinged. “I have it now. Thank you. Please stay on the line for a moment in case this doesn’t work.”

  Nicholas clicked on the file, put a fresh thumb drive in, and executed the commands. Everyone in the room watched as the code unspooled, the drive whirring. The screen went black, then began shattering incrementally, breaking in half, then into fourths, then eighths, then sixteenths, then suddenly spiraling into a 3-D cornucopia-shaped web of complex numbers and letters. It was incredible and baffling, and not for the first time, Mike regretted that her background was in psychology, not computer science.

  “This blows my mind,” Martin said, and was there a bit of excitement in that calm voice?

  Savich grinned. “Mine, too.”

  “I’m in,” Nicholas said. “I’m past the firewall.”

  The numbers swirled around, spinning so quickly Mike had no idea how he could follow them. Nicholas suddenly slapped the screen. “There you are, you little bugger.” He clicked his mouse and every screen in the room mimicked his.

  He said, “Martin, this is the code we need to disrupt to stop the attack. Here’s the protocol that should take it down.”

  Martin shouted, “People, go!”

  The room began to hum. Nicholas leaned back in the chair and gave Mike a huge upside-down grin.

  Savich slapped him on the back. “Good job, Nicholas, Martin, all of you. Let’s hope it works.”

  Pierre shouted, “You have it, Nicholas?”

  “Yes, we’ve nailed it. We have the code and we’re stopping the attack as we speak. Thank you, Pierre, thank you, Lieutenant, for a
ll your help. Pierre, I’ll send the paperwork along as soon as I’m able.”

  Menard gave a charming snort. “Paperwork, from you? I will believe it when I see it. There is still paperwork missing from the Koh-i-Noor case.”

  “Not so loud, Pierre. Savich might hear you.”

  Menard laugh. “Hello, Agent Savich. Good luck, Nicholas. Michaela, I hope we will see you again very soon. Au revoir.”

  Nicholas stared at the screen in front of him. As his finger traced a length of code along the screen, he felt Mike’s hand on his shoulder, felt her lean in, and her hair brushed against his face. Jasmine, he thought. Jasmine.

  “It’s beautiful,” she said, her breath on his cheek.

  Yes, beautiful. Nicholas cleared his throat. He said, “Gunther was an artist. I will miss him.”

  Mike smacked his shoulder. “Get a grip, Nicholas, this maniac caused billions of dollars in damage, and nearly gave all of us a heart attack, and you’re admiring his art?”

  Savich laughed. “I suppose I will, too. Sorry, Mike.”

  Nicholas said, “You have to respect the enemy, first rule of warfare.”

  “You’re both nuts.”

  Sherlock stepped into the room. “If all is peachy keen again, then why aren’t the lights on?”

  Martin called out, “That will take a while. Once we kick the intruders out of the system, the power companies will have to turn the grids back on gradually so they don’t overload the system again.”

  Nicholas stood up and stretched. He felt good. It was a major save. He shook Martin’s hand, yelled his thanks to everyone in the room, and let Savich pull them both out of the IT room.

  “Listen up. Mr. Maitland called. Iran’s nuclear facilities are online, and Vice President Sloane is, needless to say, closely monitoring everything. We may be called upon to help launch a cyber-attack.”

  Nicholas said, “What? What’s this? Aren’t they all in peace talks in Geneva?”

  “The talks have been suspended. The president is coming home early. And listen to this. POTUS’s schedule has him and the vice president giving a speech at the former Yorktown Refinery tomorrow.”