King of Code P33k!
Up there? The weird word p33k? It code for peek, which is what you're getting just below. The first four chapters of King of Code – due out on Sept. 18th.
The audio for Chapter 4, by Christian Fox, is right here too. Audio will be released on 9/12 – a week before the eBook!
Click the little triangle to hear the audio!
KING OF CODE
by CD Reiss (c) 2017 All Rights Reserved
Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Jeff Bezos.
Kings. Emperors. Rulers of kingdoms they built with their own hands. Their own sweat. Nobodies who clawed their way to the top with sheer grit.
Everett Fitzgerald. Even my buddy Fitz is a king.
Rockefeller. Carnegie. Ford.
They changed the world.
I’m about to become one of those guys.
Decades from now, they’re going to talk about what I’m about to release into the world. Where I thought of it. What I ate for breakfast. How I got here. I worked harder, thought bigger, drilled deeper. I changed myself from the inside out to get here.
Today, I am granted meetings with kings.
In thirteen days I, Taylor Harden, become a king of kings.
There’s going to come a day I don’t have to fuck in the supply closet.
One leg over my shoulder, the other dropping off the side of the table, naked enough to get the job done, but clothed enough for waistbands and shirttails to get in the way. I hadn’t fucked in a bed in four years. I didn’t see my apartment for weeks at a time. I’d showered at the gym until we bought the QI4HQ and warehouse, then I put a shower stall in my office.
“Harder,” she grunted in the dark. “Fuck me harder.”
I gave it to her. A stream of filth left her lips, and I parried with more until we were both reduced to syllables. Then, nothing but the need to get back to work.
We rustled our clothing back on.
“Did you set up the cage?” I tucked in my shirt.
“We made it presentable last night. Jack needed to clean his shit.”
Jack. I loved him like a brother, and he could cut code like a motherfucker, but he’d left a Tech World packing slip on his desk when the NY Times had done their profile on me. The photo Greeked when it was enlarged. Lucky him.
“Raven, I don’t want a repeat of—”
“There’s not going to be—”
“I mean it.”
“Taylor.” Her voice had moved to the door. “Everything’s going to be perfect this time. I promise.”
She opened the door before I could remind her that I was the one who decided what was perfect and what sucked.
“Why four?” Keaton had asked in my studio, years before. His English accent made him sound perpetually disgusted by my arrangements, but he’d insisted on seeing the shithole I lived in so he could feel sorry for me. I’d gone white hat and starved while he’d stayed black hat and thrived. His shirt cost more than my rent.
“Why four what?” I sat in the desk chair in front of my machine because it was the only other chair besides the one he’d bent his six foot four inches onto. He took up half the damn apartment.
“You’re naming the company QI4. Q is quantum. I is intelligence. Why four?”
“I liked the way it sounded.”
He finished his beer and got up to put his bottle in the recycling. He did it slowly, as if he wanted to fuck with me. He’d been an asshole since high school. Keaton Bridge, aka 41ph4 W01ph (Alpha Wolf if you don’t speak l33t), had taught me the art of the dark web, where identities, guns, and drugs were traded in glorious, unindexed chaos.
“Seventy million,” he said.
I was glad I hadn’t dressed up to meet him because I almost pissed myself.
“But…” He trailed off intentionally for effect.
He leaned his ass on the kitchenette counter and folded his arms. “You clean your ass up. You look like a bloody slob.”
I ran my fingers through my hair. I hadn’t had it cut in months. It was straight-ish when short, but when it got below my ears, it started curling. My beard was short, and my skin was olive but sallow from lack of sun. I’d lost weight, missed the gym for forever, my clothes hung off me.
“At least I don’t look like a politician.”
“Seventy million,” he repeated, reminding me I was in no position to insult his suit. “In Bitcoin.”
Oh, fuck him. He couldn’t pay me in an underground, digital currency to finance my above-board venture.
“Dude. Come on. How am I going to exchange that?”
“Dude,” he mocked me flatly. “I’ll help you.”
“I’ll never get a government contract.”
“We will. It’ll just take time.”
“I’m tired of living in the shadows.”
“Whoa, whoa, I said ‘silent partner.’ I don’t need someone coming in, telling me what to do. Not even… before you even say it… not even the ‘Devil of the Dark Web’ or, no, especially not the devil.”
“You’ll have control, Taylor. It’s all you. I’ll never even show up at the office. But my investment will essentially reveal Alpha Wolf’s identity, which will serve my purposes and clear the way for the exchange.”
I tilted my head right then left as if I was letting resistance drop out of my ears. It was a moment to breathe. I’d expected worse when I asked him for seed money. I’d figured he’d drop a couple hundred grand I could tuck away in expenses while I tried to line up real capital.
Now he wanted to be the capital. Talk about a gift horse. I was looking right in its mouth and wheeling it into the gates anyway.
My phone had encrypted channels with all my primary contacts, including Keaton. As I was walking out of the hall closet after Raven, it rattled as he messaged me.
<Good luck today. Don’t fuck it up.>
<You should be here to take some credit.>
<Credit is one thing I don’t need. Keep the receipts off the desk.>
Raven looked great walking into the hall after she’d just demanded I rip her apart with my cock. I had no feelings about her whatsoever, and that lack was mutual. Working sixteen-hour days in the same office meant we fucked each other or didn’t fuck at all.
This was why I didn’t hire women, besides the fact that they turned nerd IQ points into premature ejaculations. I usually wound up fucking them. But my lawyer had said to hire one, pay her well, and not fuck her. I’d taken two thirds of his advice. Raven had needs, same as I did. She was so anti-drama, anti-emotion, she practically had a dick.
“Check on Jack.” I closed the door to the supply closet. “He’s a fucking slob.”
“The room will be clear.”
“It better be.”
“Yes, El Presidente.” She threw the snark over her shoulder when she was already halfway down the hall.
I went the other way and pressed my thumbprint into a pad by sealed double doors.
A robotic voice came from the speaker. “Name.”
A name would have been too easy. None of us used it. I used song lyrics.
“I don’t give a fuck, chuckin’ my deuces up.”
A slot opened, and I put my phone into it. The slot closed. I had a mechanical watch, a Langematik that had set me back twenty grand, which was a deal, I promise you. It wasn’t digital, so it didn’t need to be checked before entry.
Green light. I burst into the Faraday cage, which was spotless and windowless. The walls, floor, and ceiling were lined with copper mesh that would stop all manner of motherfuckery. The room had no internet. No signal entered or escaped. Not even the drip-drop of electromagnetism from monitors. I’d put copper wire cages around the coding pit and the small factory on the floor below where engineers built the chips and boards.
I’d put full-spectrum lighting on both floors. It dimmed as it went dark outside and projected season-appropriate nature scenes on three walls. The rows of monitors were manned by the best coders on two continents. Three if you counted Giorgo, who had been born in Italy but trained in India. Above them was a huge screen rolling code.
I watched it roll. It didn’t look like C++, Java, or anything seen before because I’d rewritten the rule book.
It was beautiful.
I got up on the platform in front of the screen and faced the thirty-three guys sitting at their computers. “Jack!”
He spun around. He was in Silicon Valley chic: a Nirvana T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. I was the only one wearing a suit, but then again, I was the only one in charge. Fuck Zuck and his sweatshirt and sneakers. I was rewriting the rules.
“That fucking picture better be in your drawer.”
He snapped up the picture of his nephew, threw it in his drawer, and slapped it shut.
“Lock it.” I didn’t wait for him to fuck with the key. “Everyone.”
The last five of them turned away from their screens and trained their attention half on me. The usual ADHD cases who couldn’t switch tasks easily. I waited. These guys were my people, my tribe. From the least social to the blabbermouths, we understood each other. I knew how to give them what they needed.
“Do not put it past journalists to ‘accidentally’ open your drawers to look for an emergency tampon. Do not put it past them to look at your cables or ‘unintentionally’ hit your spacebar to drop the screensaver. Do not think for one second that they didn’t bring someone with a photographic memory. Shut the machines down. Name. Rank. Year of hire. How fucking pleased you are with your stock options. If you’re not, you’re going to have to take a deep breath and talk to Raven.”
I got a little laughter. Women scared nerds. Another reason to keep them out of the cage. I wanted my guys to feel safe.
“As a reminder. You can neither confirm nor deny the following.” I held up a finger. “The existence of a third quantum logic gate.” I held up another finger. “The transverse micro kernel system.” A third finger made a W. “Machine code translation circuits.” I put my hand down on the railing and pushed off it. “The only thing you can confirm with utmost certainty is that no one currently living on planet earth can hack Quantum Intelligence Four. And that, men, is because you have perfected this thing to within an inch of its life. You know it’s going to change the world. Your code is going to be inside the machines of every company in the world, and that’s nothing compared to the day we scale and it’s in every home, on every phone, in every chip manufactured in every factory in every country. That’s you.”
I paused to let that sink in and leaned on the railing as if I was whispering in their ears. “After today’s announcement, everyone’s going to try to get in here. Beware social engineering hacks. We cannot defend against those inside the system. People will hand you thumb drives, cables, whatever. Strangers are going to ask you for your pet’s name… which you can’t use as a password, but they’ll try.”
“Who can have a pet?” Deepak shouted. “We live here!”
Laughter followed. Deepak could drop a joke. He was as much a partner as Keaton, and he was going to be a rich man.
“In fucking paradise, Deepak Das Banerjee. But you get my point. Don’t pick up shit in the parking lot. Beware pretty girls… and boys, David.” I pointed at him. “Beware of mail. Cameras. Your own phone can be used against you if you let a girl in a bar put her number in it.” I took a pencil out of my pocket and held it up. “If any of you need one of these to write down a number, let me know. Because in thirteen days, at GreyHatC0n, New York, we are going to offer five million dollars to anyone who can get into Quantum Intelligence Four, and you…” I pointed at Joe, who’d never had a girlfriend.
He pushed his glasses up.
“You.” I moved to Laurence, who had a weird facial tic. “You.” Roger. High-functioning Asperger’s. “You.” Grady. Social anxiety. “You.” Thom. “You.” Perry. They all lit up when I pointed at them, and the energy in the room was about to burst. “You’re all going to be the sexiest guys in the room.”
Cheers. Exactly what I was looking for. I checked my watch, but I knew what time it was. Showtime.
“Gentlemen.” I held up my hand, and they quieted. “Shut your machines down. The six of you who are staying, put your smiles on. The rest of you can take a powder. Wired has arrived.”
Wired had brought seven people. Four women and three men. By the time I was out in the lobby, they’d surrendered their cell phones, Fitbits, and smart watches. They’d submitted to a pat down from security and gone through a scanner we’d bought from the same supplier the TSA used. They’d agreed to use our recording equipment and had already familiarized themselves with it.
Mona Rickard scribbled in her little pad. She’d brought her own pencil. It was thicker than the ones we provided. I let it slide when I saw her grip was tangled and unusual. She needed it, and getting a transmitter into solid wood was a project a Boy Scout would have had trouble with.
“Five million,” she said, a brown curl bouncing and swaying as she wrote. “For anyone or only people registered at GreyHatC0n?”
“Anyone,” I replied. “Worldwide. We’ll accept a remote hack. Welcome the attempt, actually. I hear that on the big day, teams are logging in from Râmnicu Vâlcea. That’s in Romania.”
“Yeah. Thanks. I know. I wrote a piece on Hackerville.”
So they’d sent me a girl who at least knew something. Chalk one up for Wired.
“The Quantum Four code isn’t even based in binary,” I continued. “The circuits are built on three-dimensional thinking.”
“QuBit. One, zero, random.”
“Exactly. When the machines are released to Oracle next year, they can open them up and try to reverse engineer, but they won’t. Even the client can’t breach it.”
“You wouldn’t be the first to make that claim.”
“If the casing is cracked, the boards self-destruct. They sink and melt.”
“And production is here, in California?”
“The machines are made here, on site. We have a plan to scale when we can guarantee security.”
The team followed Raven and me to the double doors leading to the Faraday cage. I stopped in front of them and faced the Wired team.
“Do you have way to ID the winner?” Mona asked, her diamond engagement ring jogging back and forth as she wrote.
The team got into the elevator as I answered.
“We do,” I said. “A masked audit of all compliant commands. Non-compliant are going to look like shitstain on a wedding gown.”
I explained nothing. If Wired sent anything less than their most technical writer they could fuck themselves. I wasn’t wasting my time teaching her how to read metadata. She was going to have to ask one of the guys in IT.
“You have a protocol. And metaphor noted.” She looked up and flipped her brown curl away from her eyes. “You’re pretty sure of yourself.”
“I’m sure about these guys on the other side of the door.”
“I hear it’s all men.”
“I hire the best regardless of gender.”
“And all the best had dicks?”
Someone on her team snorted with laughter. The elevator doors opened, and I led the group to the cage doors.
“Google hires all the girls,” I said.
“I’m sure.” She folded her pad and pencil against her chest and smiled. We saw right through each other, but she couldn’t print what I wouldn’t say.
“We’ll be going into a foyer between the world of Wi-Fi signals and EMPs. Kind of like a lock room in the space station.”
“I’m ready if you are,” Mona said.
I tapped the panel outside the cage.
“I don’t give a fuck, chuckin’ my deuces up.” I chanted the song lyrics flatly.
The door unlocked with a clack.
“Suck on my balls, please,” a pipsqueak with the notepad said from behind Mona.
She spun on him like a schoolteacher. “What?”
“I had enough,” I added, and Mona gave me a wide-eyed stare. “I ain’t thinkin’ about you.”
Pipsqueak tipped his pencil to me. “Beyoncé”
I winked at him and opened the door. I didn’t look back at Mona to see if she’d gotten over it. They piled in. I closed the exit behind them.
“We’re ready. Behind these doors is a room sealed against Wi-Fi. There’s no internet connectivity. All the electrical outlets route through a secure panel. Quantum Intelligence Four is pure virgin code.”
It bleeds when breached.
We said that a lot around the conference room table, but not in front of Mona Rickard.
I opened the doors. My coders stood. On the screen I’d just stood in front of, and on the walls that usually displayed nature scenes, were the scrolls of masked code as it would appear on the Tor site. They were the only light in the room. I laid my hand on the one machine we’d left on. It was in a mini-Faraday and was responsible for the screens.
“What you see here”—I indicated the men in the room—“are the best coders alive today. And on the walls is QI4’s code. It looks like nothing because it’s masked, and it’s going to continue to look like nothing unless someone gets in.”
“Which won’t happen.” Deepak came from behind his desk with a big white smile. Charming fucker. He’d have no trouble getting laid once he had a minute to wink at a girl.
He held his hand out to Mona, and she was about to shake it when his smile melted like solder on a hot iron. His hand froze between them. I followed his gaze to one of the projections.
The code wasn’t masked.
ASCII flew down the roll. Then—
“Binary?” I whispered and stepped toward the wall. There was no binary. QI4 circuits didn’t work that way. “Shut it down!”
Scrambling. Clicking. Keys unlocking drawers where safepasses were stored. My glands opened like circuits for sweat, hormones, fight or flight, firing neurons in the face of a breach I didn’t have an algorithm to process.
“Shut it down!” The scream rattled the top of my throat.
Jack was the first to have his passkey out, but before he could type in a command, the entire system went dark with a sigh of hard drives winding down.
We all stood in the dim, windowless room.
The air crackled with silence broken only by the sound of Mona’s pencil looping over paper, like someone woken in the darkness, writing down the details of a nightmare.