The SentineleBook - 2020
- A Jack Reacher novel - 
From the critics
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Reacher held up his hands, palms facing out. He was aware of the effect his appearance could have. He was six feet five. Two hundred and fifty pounds. His hair was a dishevelled mess. He was unshaved. Children had been known to run screaming at the sight of him.
‘I’ve been told I can be very persuasive.’ ‘You could get hurt.’ ‘Someone could. Not me.’
Reacher hit him in the temple and he bounced off the wall and dropped like a puppet with its strings cut.
Ransomware. If you don’t pay to get the key, you have two choices. Start again from scratch, which is slow and super expensive.’ Rutherford hesitated. ‘Or wipe everything off all your computers and load a clean copy from your backup.’
A lot of these attacks are state sponsored. They have giant warehouses full of people. It’s their only job. They have endless resources. Then there’s me, on my own, cobbling together repurposed parts salvaged from wherever I can find them.’ ‘Like David and Goliath. Only Goliath won.’
‘They didn’t look great to start with.’ ‘I’m not disputing that. But get a few mothers on the jury? Get them imagining you doing that kind of damage to their sons? You’d be taking a gamble.’
There was a blue and white eagle in the centre. It was clutching a bunch of thirteen arrows in one talon. An olive branch with thirteen leaves and berries in the other. There was a shield with mountains on the left and water on the right. The words US Department of Homeland Security were in a ring around the outside.
‘It seems like he was trying his best to do the right thing and got screwed by the people above him. Something similar happened to me once. It doesn’t feel good. And now he’s got a bunch of assholes on his tail for some reason he doesn’t understand and you people are in no hurry to help him. Someone’s got to.’ ‘And that someone’s you?’ ‘I guess so.’ ‘Why is that?’ Reacher shrugged again. ‘I’m the one who’s here.’
Someone had sent six guys after him. It would be wrong to let the day end with only two of them in the hospital.
‘The cops are running you out of town for a reason. You think if you were found in a ditch, full of bullets from a gun registered to a punk who died when Reagan was president, anyone would give two shits?’ ‘I certainly wouldn’t be happy about it.’ ‘Who cares about your happiness?’
Get the lie of the land. Draw maps for when your main force arrives. Find out where all the good stuff is hidden. And see if there are any traps to avoid. In our case, for traps read backups. Backups are kryptonite to ransomware. There’s no point in locking a bunch of data if your intended victim has a clean copy.
Denisov had started out as an interrogator. The human polygraph, he was called. Due to his appearance. And his temper. His ability to loosen tongues. And bowels.
Just please, keep my name out of it.’ ‘How could we bring your name into it?’ Reacher said. ‘We’ve never met.’
The computer memory thing they tried to use was too small so halfway through the process they raised some extra money and got a bigger one. They copied everything, then you as the IT manager took the old one into storage until it was needed for something else.
He couldn’t see them. Yet. Or hear them. Or smell them. But he knew. Eyes were on him. He could feel them. He could feel a chill on his neck. Some kind of primal response to being watched. A warning mechanism hardwired into his lizard brain, as finely tuned as his ancestors’ had been millions of years ago. Then, forests. Now, a factory. Either way, evading predators. Not getting eaten. Not getting shot. Living to fight another day. Plus ça change …
‘Or the Russians could have had some kind of tripwire in place. Something to alert them if anyone was close to finding whatever they wanted to keep hidden.
Have you heard of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory?’ ‘Near Knoxville. Where they develop the supercomputers?’ ‘They do many things there. Supercomputing is one of them. Another is cyber security. The United States is facing a lot of threats. We have a lot of defensive programs running. And the Russians have an agent in place who’s attempting to steal a copy of the most critical one. Its official name is project C02WW06BHH21.’ ‘Snappy name.’ ‘Only the geeks call it that. Everyone else calls it The Sentinel.’
It’s been running for years. On social media. Conspiracy theories. Attempts to undermine the mainstream media.’ ‘Fake news? I’ve heard about that.’ ‘This time they’re specifically trying to erode faith in the election system itself. We know they’re serious. They already had a dry run four years ago, in Kentucky. What happened was, on election day, they sent out a phishing email.
For a start, the election. Yes, it’s a while away. But for thirty days leading up to it there’s what’s called a systems freeze. Nothing computer related can be changed in any way. It’s the same kind of thing the credit card companies and online retailers do heading into Black Friday and Christmas. It makes sure no one loads new software which turns out not to work properly and screws everything up at their most critical time.
Word is, about four years ago there was a major brain drain out of cyber crimes. A bunch of the top guns all upped and left, out of the blue. At first people thought one of the big Silicon Valley corporations was on a recruitment rampage. Then there was a theory that some start-up was throwing crazy money around. But finally someone found out the government was behind it. An emergency response. To the Russians having a new weapon that could totally shred our election systems. Everywhere in the country was vulnerable. No results could be trusted.
‘So you are homeless.’ ‘No. My situation is not the same at all. It’s like the difference between being alone and being lonely. Two separate, distinct things.’
They’re dull as ditchwater.
They were edelweiss. Adolf Hitler’s favourite.
Reacher set his guy down. Waited a moment to make sure he was steady on his feet. Then punched him full in the face. It was a massive, savage blow, landing like a sledgehammer, smashing all kinds of bones and cartilage and teeth. The other guy was trying to crawl away so Reacher went after him and kicked him in the head. Normally he would have used his left foot in a situation like that, where the guy was already down. His weaker foot. But this guy was a Nazi. So he used his right. And he didn’t hold back.
He’s reenacting the Nuremberg Rallies. Complete with his own Cathedral of Light.’
I heard two of them talking. They were speaking Russian. I know a little because my grandparents were from St Petersburg. Anyway, one of the people used the word бункерный. It means bunker. Where
High voltage, low current. That’s the secret. So it can cause more pain. For longer. The steel wool goes up inside … well, you can probably guess. And the probe goes wherever I like.’
He took the SOCOM from his waistband, aimed and fired three shots. Going for her centre mass. But hitting the end wall, high and left. The suppressor must have gotten bent when the gun tumbled down the steps. His instinctive side screamed: Chase her! His rational side said: She’s too fast. Forget her. She’s gone.
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