As 01-01-00 approaches, Susan Garnett, a senior analyst at the FBI's high-tech crime unit, and Cameron Slater, an anthropologist, must draw on their combined knowledge of ancient glyphs and modern algorithms in order to crack a code hidden in a formidable computer virus. Susan traces the virus's signal to its point of origin, an area near Tikal, the site of one of the largest cities of the ancient Maya. Susan and Cameron travel to the remote jungle, convinced that if they fail to solve the riddles, both ancient and new, before the turn of the new millennium, the virus could trigger a powerful event of global proportions.
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|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|File size:||5 MB|
About the Author
R.J. PINEIRO is a 27-year veteran of the computer industry, where he held various positions at Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., retiring in 2011. He is the author of many internationally acclaimed novels including Shutdown, Firewall, Cyberterror, and Havoc, as well as the millennium thrillers, 01-01-00 and Y2K. He makes his home in central Texas, where he lives with his wife, Lory Anne, and his son, Cameron.
Read an Excerpt
A Novel of the Millenium
By R. J. Pineiro
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1999 Rogelio J. Pineiro
All rights reserved.
The Walther PPK semiautomatic could hold seven rounds, but Susan Garnett thumbed only one into the magazine before jamming it into the gun's grip. She flipped off the safety and pulled back the slide, chambering the cartridge. Keeping her finger off the trigger, she let her robe fall by her feet before stepping into the tub in her bathroom.
Susan immersed herself in the lukewarm water, her dark olive skin momentarily goose-bumping. Inhaling deeply, she forced her mind to relax, finding it amazingly easy to do, a strange sense of peace descending on her.
"Soon," she whispered, her catlike eyes glaring at the framed picture on the small shelf over the toilet. "Soon it won't matter anymore."
The slim gun fit comfortably in the palm of her right hand, which remained steady, like a surgeon's. With surprising calmness, Susan stared at her late husband's backup weapon, the one he'd always carried in an ankle holster while on duty at the Department of the Treasury, the same gun he had used to teach her how to shoot at a range in Virginia. The well-oiled PPK reflected the overheads as Susan slowly pointed the muzzle at the ceiling before placing it under her chin, remembering a story her husband had told her about a fellow agent who'd killed himself "the right way." The officer had done it in the bathtub to avoid making a mess. He'd also used only one cartridge in the semiautomatic. When he'd fired it, the recoiling slide had extracted and ejected the spent case, but a new round had not been chambered, leaving behind a safe weapon instead of a loaded one. Lastly, the officer had fired the gun under his chin instead of against his temple, where the skull could deflect the round, preventing it from inflicting the desired fatal blow.
Susan closed her eyes, recalling that dreadful morning almost two years ago. She remembered Rebecca singing in the backseat while Tom checked his daily planner. She'd always dropped Rebecca at preschool first, then Tom at his work, before driving herself to the computer science building at Georgetown University to teach her daily classes.
The thirty-five-year-old woman began to cry, tears streaming down her cheeks. She could still see the curved exit ramp, the rear bumper of a car suddenly appearing in her field of view. She felt the initial impact, airbags blossoming with the sound of a gunshot, the sky and the ground swapping places as the minivan went over the edge. Then nothing. She could remember absolutely nothing, until she'd awakened from a deep coma.
"And into a nightmare that ends —"
The phone rang in the bedroom. She frowned at the intrusion but ignored it, keeping her eyes closed, fixing her index finger over the trigger, feeling the familiar resistance of the firing mechanism, knowing just how much pressure the PPK required to fire the cartridge. For the past two years she had controlled her suicidal thoughts by going to the shooting range and imagining that the paper silhouette hanging from the track was —
The phone rang a second time. The answering machine picked it up on the third ring.
Her index finger tensed over the trigger as she listened to her own voice in the greeting, followed by three short beeps.
"Pick up, Sue. I know you're home."
She frowned at Troy Reid's voice echoing in her small apartment in downtown Washington. Reid, an old hand at the Bureau, ran the FBI's high-tech crime unit. Susan was one of his top analysts. Following the accident and her release from the hospital, Susan had switched careers, opting to devote all of her energy and skills to catching hackers, starting with the elusive David Canek, also known as Hans Bloodaxe, the man responsible for her family's death. She had immersed herself in her work as a way to forget the pain, the memories, the faces. As a way to purge her mind from a past that was simply too painful to remember, forcing all of her energy into achieving her personal vendetta. For months she'd set up traps at thousands of Internet service providers (ISPs) in the hope of finding her hacker. She'd eventually caught Bloodaxe with one of her software traps, buried deep inside an ISP in Portland, Oregon. Susan had also nailed over a hundred hackers in just under two years with the Bureau, earning a sterling reputation as top cybercop. But all of the fame and recognition didn't prevent her from spiraling into a deep depression after Bloodaxe was convicted and sentenced to life at a federal prison three months ago. She had come to the realization that the fire of retribution burning deep inside her had been the inner power that had fueled her desire to go on after the accident. Now that Bloodaxe was behind bars, Susan suddenly found herself without a reason for living.
"We've got what seems to be a global event, Sue. C'mon, pick up the phone. I know you've put in sixteen straight hours, but this is very hot. Gotta talk to you."
Global event? Susan cursed under her breath while lowering the gun and flipping on the safety with her thumb, setting it over a sealed envelope on the shelf above the toilet, next to the picture frame. Wrapping the robe around her, she walked to the bedroom and reached for the phone, noticing a slight tremble in her hand. Taking a deep breath, she said, "Hello, Troy."
"You sound annoyed. Sorry, Sue. Were you sleeping?"
She sat in bed and crossed her legs, eyes looking into the bathroom, focusing on the dark weapon resting on the white shelf. Only now, after walking away from a suicide attempt, did her heart begin to pound heavily. She felt a lump in her throat. A sudden heat flash made her feel light-headed, dizzy.
"Sue? Are you all right?"
Sweat began to form on her forehead. The sheer realization of what she had almost done was finally setting in. He body was reacting to the burst of adrenaline from the short-lived event, just as it would have if a thug had pulled a gun on her, threatened to kill her, and then abruptly walked away.
Laboring to control her breathing, wiping the perspiration with the sleeve of her robe, she said, "What — what do you want?"
"Have you been listening to the news this evening?"
"I'm ... no. Look, Troy, I'm really tired. Get to the point. What is it that couldn't wait until tomorrow?"
"Just over two hours ago, at exactly 8:01 P.M., all computer systems in Washington, D.C., froze for twenty seconds."
Her suicidal thoughts momentarily vanished as the scientist in her took over. "Froze for twenty seconds? I don't understand. Did we experience a power glitch?"
"No power glitch. This event was software driven."
The room began to spin. Susan lay down, resting her head on a pillow and closing her eyes to control her dizziness. Her temples throbbed to the rhythm of her increasing heartbeat. "How ... how do you know?"
"Because of the nature of the event. It looks as if someone somehow managed to put every network on hold for twenty seconds, before returning everything back to normal."
Susan took another deep breath and opened her eyes. The room no longer spun. She swallowed her own spit and tried to focus on the conversation. "What's the estimate on data loss?"
"There's been no reports of data loss."
"Nope, and no messages either, or statements, or warnings. Just frozen screens for twenty seconds and everything back to normal after that, even the system clocks skipped twenty seconds to resynchronize."
She slowly felt better. The heat flash passed. Her heartbeat became steady. "Strange."
"What's even more strange is that we have gotten calls from our offices around the world. London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei — they're all reporting similar events taking place at the exact same time, one minute after eight in the evening our time."
Susan sat up in bed. "That's —"
"Impossible? I'm past denial, Sue. It's very real, and very scary."
Susan didn't reply. In her short but successful FBI career, she had lured and trapped many brilliant hackers, most of them guilty of releasing viruses into the Internet or illegally accessing private or government networks. In fact, the most tenacious had been Hans Bloodaxe, who'd released the virus that shut down the traffic-light system in Washington, D.C., for several days ...
Susan's eyes drifted back to the weapon, for a moment wondering if she would have actually killed herself had Troy Reid not called when he had. She decided that she probably would have. In fact, she felt she could still do so at this moment. The feeling of emptiness that consumed her from the moment she'd awakened from her coma had only deepened after Bloodaxe was convicted. Whatever healing time had done on her emotional wounds had been wiped away by the wave of loneliness that had struck her outside the courtroom, forcing her to take such desperate measures.
She blinked back to her phone conversation. Troy was concerned about this bizarre event, software driven, probably the act of a skilled hacker. But both synchronized and global? She shook her head in disbelief. Even Bloodaxe's strike had been contained to one geographical location. The thought of a global, synchronized strike was unheard of, nearly impossible to coordinate without substantial technical resources.
"Sue? Are you there?"
She nodded. "Just thinking. See, any hacker can release a virus onto the Internet. Most viruses, however, are detected within weeks, or even days or hours, of their original release, prompting software companies to generate treatments that get posted at numerous Internet bulletin boards, where users can download them to disinfect their systems. The virus is then methodically exterminated from the web. In order to release a virus that could infect most of the world while going totally undetected, and then strike in synchronized fashion, requires not just highly specialized skills, but also a lot of software and hardware resources spread across many countries. That's virtually impossible to accomplish. Surely someone somewhere would have stumbled upon this virus before it became active and posted the finding on the Internet for the world to see."
"Not to my knowledge. This one seems to have caught us by surprise."
"Do we have any leads?"
"No. That's why I called. I need you to start digging right away. The director got a call from the White House an hour ago. Apparently the President and his advisers were in the middle of a video conference call with some classified party in the Middle East when the networks froze, killing the satellite link."
Susan sighed. The problem seemed quite distant and irrelevant to a person about to end her life. And at the moment, for reasons that she could not explain, hearing that the strange event had disconnected the President from his call actually struck her as humorous. Maybe it was hysteria from her near-death encounter in the bathtub. Or perhaps her tired mind had difficulty separating her feelings. But before she could help herself, she blurted, "Just tell the President to stop complaining and call them back. It's not as if he has to dial the phone himself."
Reid reminded Susan of her own father, who would call her by her full name only when he was angry with her. And the fact that Reid was almost as old as her father only added a level of authority to the remark. "Sorry. It's late and I'm very tired."
"Well, see, that's part of the problem. We can't wait until morning. I need you over here ASAP."
"Now? But —"
"Now, Sue. Please: I've already sent a car to pick you up. It should be there momentarily. This is a real emergency. Somebody out there appears to have the power to freeze global networks at will. What if today's event was just a test? What if the next strike involves severe data loss? We're talking global shutdown, lady. We don't need this kind of crap right before the turn of the millennium. Everyone's having a hell of a time just getting their systems Year 2000 compliant. No one needs a group of rogue programmers making a delicate transition time even more difficult. Get over here now to get things going. I promise you some sleep before dawn in one of the offices upstairs."
Exhaling heavily, she agreed and hung up the phone. She unloaded the PPK and locked it away in her nightstand. She also snagged the sealed envelope she had set next to the picture frame. It contained her final will, quite simple actually, along with an explanation of her actions.
She slipped into a pair of blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and a sweater. She folded the envelope in half and shoved it in her back pocket. The doorbell rang as she crammed her feet into a pair of hiking boots. She grabbed a jacket, a scarf, and her computer carrying case as she dashed out the door.
The Earth continued to rotate along its axis, marking the dawn of a new day, just as it had done for billions of years, since the creation of the Solar System. Beneath the atmosphere, the large digital displays atop the world's best known structures continued their countdown to the end of the millennium, numbers pulsating to the rhythm of their computerized brains, projecting crimson hues into the sky, sequences of ever-decreasing numbers that raced across space as the Earth continued to spin while traveling along its elliptical orbit around the Sun.
One after another the numbers came, as the blue planet obeyed the laws of physics, always spinning, exposing to dark space one continent after the next, metropolis after metropolis, all displaying the same monumental icons of the passage of time.
The clocks radiated their energy in the visual range of the electromagnetic spectrum, projecting it high into the sky at the speed of light, where it mixed with electromagnetic energy from other sources as it reached the upper layers of the atmosphere, as it broke free from the Earth's gravitational force, as it ventured into outer space. The electromagnetic energy containing the visual spectrum of those magnificent clocks traveled past moon orbit and Mars, across the asteroid ring, beyond the orbits of the outer planets, plunging into deep space.
The Earth continued to spin, continued to flash electromagnetic pulses, continued to transmit these bands of energy encoding the scarlet images of the countdown clocks beyond the Solar System, day after day, land after land, city after city, over and over, creating a pulsating rhythm that moved across space as the Earth orbited the Sun, always spinning, always releasing energy, always broadcasting the global countdown to the inevitable end of the millennium.CHAPTER 2
December 12, 1999
Catching hackers was an acquired skill, something not taught in school. Oftentimes it took a hacker to catch a hacker. The FBI knew this and kept hackers in its list of ghost consultants. Many of them had been caught by Troy Reid's high-tech warriors of the caliber of Susan Garnett. Those hackers guilty of harmless crimes, like accessing a classified government web page just to prove to a friend that it could be done, were normally given a choice: a prison term, or probation with a lifetime obligation to provide free consulting services for the Bureau, anytime, anyplace. It was a pretty easy choice for most.
Just like the Godfather calling in his favors, Susan thought as she checked her system and found the name of a hacker she had caught six months ago browsing in one of the servers of the directory of intelligence of the CIA. A few years ago the kid, a junior at UCLA, would have gotten five years at a minimum security prison. The felony would have gone on his permanent record, preventing him from securing a job in the high-tech sector after completing his jail time. Nowadays, those kinds of hackers got off easy, as long as they changed their ways and agreed to the FBI's terms.
Susan sat behind her desk at her window office on the sixth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington. She glanced at the cumulus clouds hovering over the Washington skyline — a scene she hadn't expected to see again. Only yesterday she had stared from this very office at what she thought would be her last sunset. She had watched the hues of burnt orange and yellow-gold splash the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Capitol. Her eyes had drifted to the distant shape of Highway 195 as it snaked its way into the south side of the nation's capital, remembering, reminiscing, plotting. Then she had gone home for the very last time.
Or so she had thought.
She shook her head, not certain of what exactly she was doing here again, behind this desk, tapping the keyboard of her portable computer as dawn broke and the city stirred to life. Streetlights flickered and went off. Traffic thickened. Horns blared. Pedestrians emerged from subway stations. Susan watched it all with detachment, as if she didn't belong to this world anymore.
Tonight, she told herself. I'll just get Troy going on this investigation and then I'm gone, for good.
Excerpted from 01-01-00 by R. J. Pineiro. Copyright © 1999 Rogelio J. Pineiro. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One: 000001,
Chapter Two: 000010,
Chapter Three: 000011,
Chapter Four: 000100,
Chapter Five: 000101,
Chapter Six: 000110,
Chapter Seven: 000111,
Chapter Eight: 001000,
Chapter Nine: 001001,
Chapter Ten: 001010,
Chapter Eleven: 001011,
Chapter Twelve: 001100,
Chapter Thirteen: 001101,
Chapter Fourteen: 001110,
Chapter Fifteen: 001111,
Chapter Sixteen: 010000,
Chapter Seventeen: 010001,
Chapter Eighteen: 010010,
Chapter Nineteen: 010011,
Chapter Twenty: 01-01-00,
Books by R. J. Pineiro,