U.S. Cyber Command
Fort George G. Meade, Maryland
General Earl T. Vickers, director of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, disconnects the secure line to the President and immediately mashes another button. "Colonel, I want the best computer operators we have in my office forthwith."
"Military or civilian, sir?" the colonel asks.
"Colonel, I don't care if they're from Mars. Send me the best we have." The general replaces the handset, stands, and begins pacing the perimeter of his office while his mind clicks through the list of probable suspects.
Located approximately forty miles northwest of the White House on the edge of Fort Meade, the National Security Agency occupies a sprawling office complex dominated by two large buildings sheathed in dark glass. The black glass creates a mysterious aura, befitting the secret work that goes on inside.
Created in 2009, USCYBERCOM started at the back of the pack and remains in catch-up mode as they attempt to thwart the daily assaults on the nation's defense networks. The man charged with the mission, Vickers, is a four-star who rocketed up the army ranks. A broad-shouldered man of average height whose salt-and-pepper hair is cut high and tight, Vickers has two advanced degrees from an Ivy League university. Unfortunately, neither is computer related, and
the general is also playing catch-up, learning on the fly.
Vickers stops pacing when there's a knock at his door. "Enter," he shouts. That's the other thing about Vickers—he's not big on gatekeepers. If you want to see him, you knock and enter, if so instructed.
The door opens revealing a woman, early thirties, dressed in ripped jeans, flip-flops, and a T-shirt—all in black. Standing beside her is a man, approximately the same age, tall and broad, outfitted in khakis, a blue blazer, and a button-down shirt. Vickers waves a hand at the two chairs fronting his desk and works his way back to his chair. The woman saunters over, plops down, and crosses her leg, letting a flip-flop dangle from the edge of her big toe. The man
straightens his blazer and sits, his posture ramrod straight.
Once both guests are seated, General Vickers drops into his chair finds it hard to draw his gaze from the silver hoop dangling from woman's left nostril. "You two are my computer experts?"
"Let me guess—you were expecting a couple of good old boys?" the woman says.
If the general has learned anything since taking command, it's that it takes all types to make a world, especially when it comes to computer programmers. He smiles. "I don't care what's between your legs, young lady, if you can get the job done. Names?"
The woman leans forward and grabs a foam football from the general's desk. "I'm Alyx Reed." She jabs a thumb toward the man seated next to her. "He can speak for himself."
"Sir, I'm Zane Miller, working for the National Security Agency."
Alyx leans back and begins squeezing the football. "Some shitstorm, huh?"
"How could our systems be hacked?"
"Anything powered by a computer can be hacked." Alyx tosses the ball in the air and catches it.
"The NSANet isn't connected to the Internet. It's a closed system."
"Intelligence operators all across the world have access to the system," Alyx says, tossing the football in the air again. "The system may be air-gapped from the World Wide Web, but there are other access points."
"Zane, are you thinking this could be an insider?"
Before he can answer, Alyx says, "The name Edward Snowden ring any bells?"
General Vickers scowls at Alyx, before turning to Zane. "Mr. Miller—insider, or have we been hacked by an outside group?"