Here’s an excerpt:
Nobody leaves this life unscathed. There are plenty of scars to go around. That’s what Domingo Mondragon’s grandmother told him on the day he went to prison. Federal penitentiary. Three years ago, courtesy of the FBI. As in, Fucking Bastards International, or Federal Bureau of I-hope-you-rot-in-hell.
Also, FBI as in Domingo Mondragon’s current employer.
Most people knew him as Sabot. Which is to say, most people didn’t know him at all. Sabot was his hacker handle. If he’d been a little less prideful and a little more prudent, he’d never have done time. But Sabot wanted the world to know what he’d done, because he was proud of it.
He shut down a government. Just for a day, just for fun. It was a rat-bastard kind of government, one of those bullshit middle eastern places, long on oil and and backwards religious dogma but tragically short on moral compunction and social responsibility.
Sabot fancied himself as comeuppance personified. From his Queens apartment, working at his kitchen table within earshot of his four live-in siblings and that infernal rattling refrigerator, Sabot organized the cyber attack that crashed every server they owned.
Practically, it meant very little. The servers were back up again in a day or so. There wasn’t much lingering damage, except for a few exhausted techs who’d worked overtime in the bowels of the server farm to restore service.
But it sent a message. Fuck the man. Fight the power. Thinking about the attack still gave Sabot a charge.
And he’d had a lot of time to think about it. A little over a year, after the judge reduced his sentence to account for all of his cooperation.
It was the cooperation that took the biggest toll. In exchange for years of his own life, Sabot turned rat. The conviction count stood at seventeen, with four more trials in various stages of completion.
Twenty-one in all. It was a lot of friends to sell down the river. Enough to make Sabot look over his shoulder every once in a while. Most of those people were nerdy high school kids and twenty-something maladroits. But Sabot figured at least one or two had friends who knew how to fire a gun. So he kept his eyes open.
It had been easy enough. “Just be yourself and do what you do,” Special Agent Adkins had told him as soon as he signed the plea bargain. “Just pretend we never met. And if you warn anybody of what you’re doing, the deal’s off. Not to be overly dramatic about it, but without a deal, you’ll probably die in prison. Just so you know where we’re coming from.”
While the FBI action hadn’t exactly devastated the ranks of the loosely-affiliated quasi-network of hackers known as Anonymous, the arrests had certainly sent a message. One might have the power to shut down an entire country’s computer network while watching old Tom and Jerry reruns, but karma might just shove itself right up your ass.
Sabot missed New York, missed the intensity of a rebel’s life, missed the seedy low-rent neighborhood that was home, and missed the camaraderie of being a digital outlaw.
More than that, he hated being owned. And he especially hated being owned by the organization he used to publicly taunt. That was tough on his pride.
But the pay was pretty fucking good, especially for a man from the projects. Relative affluence had softened Sabot a bit. The cash buffed a few rough edges off of his personality. He realized there was a reason the middle class rarely revolted. Life just wasn’t that bad.
Sabot hadn’t ever imagined himself as a Seattle resident. He was New York like baseball and fuck-you. But he was a supervised ex-convict employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ West Coast Cyber Task Force. Pretty sweet deal, all told.
There was just one problem. The Bureau had taken away all of his computers. He wasn’t even allowed to own a smart phone. His handlers printed out reams of server logs and chat room conversations for him to pore over, using his exquisite knowledge of the seedy side of the internet to search for evidence of cybercrime, but he wasn’t allowed to do his own research, or even sit in front of a computer monitor.
Managing temptation, the boss said. You could take the kid out of the projects, but you really couldn’t take the projects out of the kid. At least that’s what the Bureau suits thought.
They probably weren’t wrong. Sabot had met a few bastards since his release whose lives he’d have loved to jack up. It had been very tempting. It was remarkably easy to do. In less time than it took to watch a single Seinfeld rerun, Sabot could steal an unlucky mark’s bank account, credit card, email, and Facebook passwords. Most people didn’t know how truly fucked they’d be if someone locked them out of their own accounts, but Sabot knew. He’d done it to dozens of posers, pricks, and fellow perpetrators, back in the day.
But those days were over. It wasn’t like the jail sentence ever went away. It was just suspended. They let him out early so The Man could benefit from his unique talents. If they ever decided he wasn’t playing ball, or if he got caught indulging his darker side, Sabot would find himself right back in the big house, fighting to avoid more prison sex.
He stepped from his apartment stoop out into the Seattle rain. Always with the fucking rain. And what was with all the coffee shops in this town? Maybe the caffeine kept people’s spirits artificially elevated, preventing them from going batshit crazy on account of the relentless drear. Maybe I should drink more coffee. Sabot was certain he was going batshit crazy.
Wasn’t much he could do about it. He wasn’t in a cage, but he wasn’t exactly free, either. The Bureau had him by the balls. Permanently.
He opened his umbrella and rounded the corner, nearly running smack into the back of a long queue of people standing on the sidewalk.
He stood on his toes to compensate for his diminutive stature, and peered toward the front of the gaggle. The line was apparently for the coffee shop. It was always busy, but Sabot had never seen it that busy.
He sidestepped the line and walked past to catch his bus. Half a block later, he looked up from the pavement in front of his feet to see a similar situation outside the local breakfast cafe. People were stacked like cordwood, waiting for their morning muffin and pumpkin spiced latte, or whatever the neo-yuppies ate for breakfast.
“What’s going on?” he asked a put-upon lady in a black dress and oversized white sneakers.
“Someone said something about the cash register being down,” she said.
He grunted and moved on. Didn’t want to miss his bus.
He needn’t have worried. He arrived at his stop in plenty of time, but was chagrined to discover another flock of angry commuters. On a normal day, there were rarely more than a dozen people waiting at his stop. Today, there were upwards of fifty. They were loud, agitated, and annoying.
Sabot sidled up to the fringe of the gaggle and asked a guy in a business suit why the bus stop was so crowded. The man’s reply was puzzling. Not only was Sabot’s bus late, but the three preceding buses had also failed to show up.
Sabot wondered why.
“Haven’t you heard, buddy?” the man replied with an annoyed sneer. “The whole fucking world is melting down.”