I know, I know - but the other purpose of the interludes is to break up the flow just a little bit, give you a sense of what's happened elsewhere and elsewhen - because the next one, Paint It Black, is largely parallel to this story. Hence all the comments about the Mice being unavailable, or the Mules, or Lasko...
So you get to say hello to someone VERY special again. I hope you enjoy it!
SEVEN MONTHS AGO
Time to call in the markers.
All of her markers, but quietly. It was finally time to start preparing her revenge on ‘Mike Jenkins‘. Luckily for her, she had an eidetic memory and really could cut code with the best of them in the business. Opening the folder on her computer labeled, ‘Budget Request FY2010’, she called up the pictures she had acquired. Next, she ran them through imaging programs she'd personally rewritten, not just for intel work, but for blackmail purposes.
Hidden cameras were known for having grainy pictures when used in low light conditions, even the new digital ones. Her early camera work as a teen hadn't been the best, often dark enough to make the pictures hazy. Had she sold the code to the private sector she'd have made millions, but she didn't think that way. It was about the power it gave her, and the control.
Oh, especially the control.
Not that she'd turn down money. And if what was starting to form in the back of her mind was possible, she'd never need another red cent from anyone else again. They'd be lining up to give her a prince's ransom for what she was going to put together.
It'd be dangerous, mining, refining, and selling the data. It was surely going to break some laws - she could quote you the parts of the USCMJ and US Code that she was going to shatter, not that she gave a damn. But revenge was a driving force. And, once she had her money, she would disappear, making anything that came to light after the fact impossible to trace.
She'd be a ghost. She'd need a new name, of course. Short term, there were plenty of files she could access in other agencies’ computers that would work. Then, once safely away, she could build herself a more solid and clean background that would pass anywhere.
She probably wouldn’t be able to enter the US again, with the new DNA scanners slowly coming online. That would certainly give her away. Her hair, her looks - well, they had served her well, but a little nip here, a tuck there, never hurt anyone. Best to plan on some minor plastic surgery.
She looked down at her small breasts and decided that maybe being blonde and big breasted would be the way to go after this. Perfect camouflage - blonde bimbo. Better work on a tan, too. But that wouldn’t be a problem where she’d be going.
Prissy kicked back and pulled up some program files some friends had ‘donated’ to her. She had told them it was just to help them out, for testing and debugging purposes only. Idiots. They’d never dreamt of using these programs the way she was making them work.
Data danced on her screen as her fingertips tapped faster than many professional secretaries.
Soon, there'd be enough data for her to work with. She'd waited months already. Her new boss wasn't under her control - yet - so she still had to do real work. As a Major, with considerable seniority in her department, she could delegate most of it, but it still had to be verified by her and her boss before being sent onto the Base Commander or the Pentagon.
As if by some deviltry, as soon as she'd started her search, her buzzer sounded. Her boss's other assistant - a snobby, stuck-up bitch of a Major, which meant she couldn’t pull rank on her - informed her that the quarterly Manning and Readiness reports were being moved up. Unnecessarily, she added that it was a few weeks early.
Really, fuckwit? she thought.
This was due to the fact that so many of Florida's National Guard units were being deployed to the Sandbox this fall.
How’d you like to join them? But all she said was, “Thank you, Major Harmon. I’ll get right on those.”
Major Connors pushed the final pile of reports she'd verified into her outbox and swore under her breath. Her plans were falling behind.
Her new boss - well, not so new now, after nearly nine months - expected her to work. Actual, honest-to-goodness, verifiable work. This really cut into her access time at the office. Even though her home computers were more than capable, they still paled in comparison to the mainframes she could access from her desk. Plus, it gave her a chance to try to crack into secure systems.
Unfortunately, Colonel Farnham was much more observant - and much more independent - than Olds had been. So now she was stuck doing assignments at a pace expected of someone who‘d made Major as quickly as she had. Slowly, she was earning Farnham’s respect, and thus more freedom from his vulture-like supervision. On the plus side, all the effort she’d put in had set the precedent of her staying later than everyone else, way past normal work hours.
She’d used some of that extra time to do some serious hacking. She’d married several programs, including a facial recognition program and a fingerprint data-point scanner, to a robot internet browser that had some muscle to it. Now, she could combine the data from dozens of frames of video at time and adjust for angle, shadow, and other variables. Not only could she build a 3-D image, but the program would note hard-points in those features that couldn't be easily altered, even with plastic surgery or natural aging.
If she was in if for the money, the TSA, NSA, and FBI, hell, the whole alphabet would be knocking down her door, killing each other to be first in line, trying to get hold of this program.
But then she'd lose control of her data tools. And, as a full time member of the Florida National Guard, the rules regarding programming were very clear: all programs created on government equipment belonged to the government. Once it came out that she’d created her little toys using government assets, on government time and using Secure and Top Secret government code, she’d lose them completely. Most likely, they’d be sold, or given to a lobbyist’s sponsor and then rented back to the military. And as a final ‘fuck you‘, she’d probably end up with a reprimand in her personnel file.
No thank you. She’d just have to keep her babies safely under wraps. Besides, nobody but her could keep them properly updated and working as intended.
She hid her program in several pieces on separate flash drives and inside other innocuous programs. She'd designed the integration of the program to not only work at a machine code level, but to require certain pieces of hardware to be present in the code loop for it to function her way. Which meant she needed some computer parts that weren't exactly off the shelf or in any government supply chain, but often were available to those agencies that worked with DARPA contracts. It had taken several months of offering favors and back scratching, while she was on her own, to get the parts she needed.
Friends scratching her back again, of course. This program - she’d named it Sherlock - was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, easy, to any programmer on the outside. Maybe even a few million, to the right end user.
She wasn't planning for a paltry few million, but ten to twenty times that as her safety net. There was no way she'd sell Sherlock - not just yet. She needed it for her plan and the legwork right now. It was going to take time to build her data-points, find the holes, and patch them - by what ever means necessary. She also needed to program in fail-safes that would trigger if anyone tried to trace her using this same program. They’d have to either crash the hunter, or plant false positives in connected data files or real time video data-links, point the hounds at another woman.
So much to do, but this type of work sent shivers deep inside her. Someone was going to die, she was going to get rich and disappear, all because of this program.
Everyone was long gone now, except for the duty staffers two floors down. Sooner or later, someone would be by to remind her to go eat. She, of course, would point sadly to the pile of reports - already completed but they didn’t know that - on her desk. They’d chat a bit, and she would ask them to get her some coffee. This would give her time to shut down her systems safely and secure her ‘other’ work, bringing up something military before the staffer returned. They never got the coffee right - she took it black, no sugar, no cream - and the stale pastry they always managed to scrounge up for her inevitably ended up in the wastebasket.
After her ‘break’ she'd double check her security measures and save files to a flash drive for review that night in bed. There was always enough new stuff each week - mostly related to potential blackmail so far, dammit! -after the programs ran to keep her on ‘mission’ and hot under the collar (as well as her panties). She had to be a good girl for now until the patina of her last boss finally faded or she was ready to move and kick off her plans.
Being a good girl sucked.
The footsteps of the night Sergeant could be heard approaching her office in a slow measured pace, giving her time to go through her security protocols and save her work. After he left, she'd finish up for the night and maybe go find some relief off base. Maybe there’d be some young stud at the bar. Didn’t matter if he was good-looking; enough margaritas and she wouldn’t remember his face, much less his name.