Zenith Angle

enjoyable techno-thriller by Bruce Sterling ISBN:0-345-46061-8.... Fresh-perspective having read it multiple times over a couple years: I used to think of him as a Hero Warrior type, but now he smells a bit more like some who became unhinged by the World Trade Center attack, like Dennis Miller and Christopher Hitchens. Then again, maybe he's just channeling that for the sake of this book.*

can read it very quickly

post-World Trade Center CyberSecurity/Info War story

"Mondiale" is fictionalized MCI/World Com.


The Internet backbone business was never an outfit that De Fanti had taken seriously. Running the Internet was a high-tech hobby for computer geeks. It was a favor he’d done to put a nice smile on the face of the National Science Foundation. But by now, 1999, in terms of market cap, it was by far the biggest part of De Fanti’s empire

Van was making money, and not just a lot of money. Van was the VP for Research and Development at Mondiale. Van was making a weird amount of money

This sight touched something in Van that he lacked all words for. There was something silent and dark and colossal about the love he had for Dottie, like lake water moving under ice

Van didn’t enjoy shopping, generally. Van enjoyed mathematics, tech hardware, cool sci-fi movies, his wife’s company, and bowling

they got that dismissive FBI look in their eyes. They were reclassifying him as a mere informant rather than a fully qualified expert. That wouldn’t do

Van couldn’t bear to turn the catalog page. The astonishing chair was already part of his self-image. The chair gave him the same overwhelming feeling he had about computers: that they were tools. They were serious work tools. Only lamers ever flinched at buying work tools. If you were hard-core you just went out and got them

Dottie only allowed herself these painful fits of insecurity when she was really, really happy. It had taken Van ten years of marriage to figure that out, but now he understood it. She was spoiling their perfect day because she had to. It was her secret promise to an ugly, scary world that she would never enjoy her life too much

Some big jet had collided with the World Trade Center

At least the Y2K money had really helped a big crowd of old programmers who had never saved up for retirement... Van’s New Year’s resolution for the year 2001 had been to never panic over vaporware again

He understood that his life had been profoundly changed, and that from now on his services would be needed in new ways. Everything would be different, harder, uglier, tougher, and more dangerous. He just needed a few good, solid ideas about that situation, that was all

They had a two-career marriage where neither party self-sacrificed. They were hugely respectful of each other’s gifts and ambitions, so whenever somebody’s personal sacrifice became absolutely necessary, they would hire somebody else to do it, and pay them a salary

That is gonna be the future of this story, Van. It’s phones versus razors. It’s our networks versus their death cult. For as long as that takes

*But when Van had encountered Jeb, Van’s life had changed overnight. *

He’d taken part in five hacker raids with joint federal-state investigation teams

Van rather liked that part of the assignment. Especially that look on the face of the code kid when he realized that he knew nothing about the people who really owned and ran the Internet

Van had never spent much brainpower on ethics, law, or philosophy, but Van could taste evil. Cops knew this about him. Cops regarded Van as a stand-up guy

Van had taught himself to speak the language of cops. He kind of liked the way that cops cut the crap

Once he got them both online again, Van figured, he could send Dottie a nice reassuring note. He loved Dottie, but he and Dottie always got along best by e-mail

But to be available to his stricken coworkers, Van needed fast, efficient Internet access, all across America. This sounded pretty simple. But it wasn’t simple. It was impossible

That left Van only one way to angle it: the zenith angle. Satellites, straight overhead. Internet access direct from Space, the Final Frontier. Van had never before used a satellite Internet service

Grandpa Chuck was one of the world’s top aerodynamicists

Grandpa belonged to the Lockheed SkunkWorks

Second, the female Macintosh voice that read error messages aloud sounded eerily like Dottie’s voice. Not Dottie’s normal voice, but the voice Dottie used when she was really upset with him. When Dottie was being very, very clear with him about something

I saw the President’s speech on the TV,” said the old man, growing livelier. “That kid is all right! He’s not like his dad. Old George W Bush, he used to come out to Area 51 when we were launching Blackbirds. Back when George was Company. ‘Fifty thousand dollars an hour,’ George Bush would say. No vision thing! He was a bean-counter! Anywhere on earth, any Sunday, a Blackbird could bring back pictures

They ordered us to destroy all the documents. They ordered us to break all our tools. ” The pain was still fresh in the old man’s eyes. “That was the worst part, Robbie: when the politicians make you break your dang tools

Breaking the tools, son, that’s the only way to kill a secret federal program and keep it dead

Good old Dilbert. Well, in the Skunk Works, nobody ever had to be the Dilbert. Because Kelly Johnson wouldn’t suffer a damn fool around for seven seconds

Son, you never know what you can accomplish until you’re in a Skunk Works. You pull that off right, and a Skunk Works makes big things happen. Big new things, son, genuine breakthroughs in engineering. Things competitors wouldn’t believe. Things the Congress wouldn’t believe

You’ll grow into this, son! It’ll broaden you! You need some broadening. Computer people get way too specialized.” The old man laced his veiny hands in a big knuckly knot. “No man should ever get too specialized.” He took a breath, gazed at the wall with a fixed expression, and recited something. “ ‘A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write a sonnet, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, solve equations, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.’ “Who said all that?” said Van, impressed. “A great American writer. Robert Heinlein.

I can tell you something real useful. That is, how to run a SkunkWorks

You gotta listen, that’s number one. It’s more important to listen to your own people than it is to tell ’em what to do. Decide, that’s number two. Make your management decisions whenever they’re needed. You can figure out later whether they were right or wrong. And believe. Don’t ever try to build a project that you can’t believe in. Because otherwise, when they cut your funding—and they will cut it—you won’t be able to tell ’em with a straight face why they should go straight to hell

You’ve got to be quick, you’ve got to be quiet, and you’ve got to be on time. You had your three principles, and those are your three rules

When I tell you ‘quick,’ that means small. Small teams, the best people, very restricted. Ten or twenty percent of the people that normal outfits would use. No long reports, ever. Never read a long report, and if a guy writes you one, fire him. No long meetings. You want to keep ’em all working close together, no distractions, focused on the project all the time. Everybody stays hands-on with the tools, everybody stays close to the aircraft. Stick with the machine, never back off

When I say ‘quiet,’ that means no talking. You don’t brag about what you’re doing. Ever. You just do it, and you never demand any credit. If nobody ever knows who you are, then nobody knows what you did

You got to be on time! You got to do it when there are stars in their eyes about it! Before they get all bureaucratic, and start counting every nickel and dime! Timing is the hardest part, son: you gotta know when good enough will do. You gotta know when to quit

A Skunk Works is finished, once the Grease Machine takes over. Once the money beats the engineering, that’s the end of it, son. Once the money beats the engineering, it’s all just chrome and tail fins, after that

He’d been all of seven years old during the Lockheed bribery scandal. Except for family reasons, Van would have known and cared nothing about it. It was just some obscure scandal from the Watergate era. In his later life, though, the subject had come up once. That was when a Japanese guy from Do Co Mo had tried to explain to him why Japan was in so much trouble. Why Japan, with the world’s best engineers and hottest products, had fallen into a hole. In the eighties they were on their way to running the world. In the nineties they were going nowhere

Van looked at his father glumly. His father looked bad: piratical, slick, and never to be trusted. But he didn’t look quite so bad as he normally did. He was, for instance, sober

even before he had joined the CIA, there had always been something spacey and strange about him. When they’d finally shunted him into Counter-Narcotics, that dead end of any intelligence career, that was when his pride had broken down

This whole business was very like Dottie, Van thought sadly. If he chose to mess up their fragile, tender status quo, then she would not fight with him about it. No, she would cooperate fully, by messing up their lives even faster

I know that they want you in Washington, son! But you don’t have to go through with that. There’s no need for it

Son, I know people from AlQaeda. I’ve met them. They don’t matter in this world. The only way they can matter is to kill themselves inside our jets and buildings. AlQaeda can’t build anything. They can’t invent anything. But you can, son. You’re a builder, you’re an innovator. People like you are making people like them matter less every day

Derek, if you work inside the Beltway, the people who screw things up are gonna become your best friends. They’re going to be your best war buddies

In the CCIAB, we do have one great advantage. We don’t need to rely on anybody’s lame industry vendors, because, in the CCIAB, we actually understand code. So we can build, and we will build, our own Grendel (Beo Wolf) super-ClusTer. Grendels are made from obsolete PCs, but clustered in parallel without any von Neumann bottlenecks

Van was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and thinking hard about streams. Van had always wanted to do something useful and important with streams, because streams were inherently superior to the conventional structure of files. Van was planning to implement distributed streams within the Grendel

Twenty minutes after Grendel first went up, the system received its first hacker attack

Mondiale, the mighty Mondiale, was dot-bombing. Mondiale was coming apart at the seams. This brave, heroic, visionary, cutting-edge company—the bear market was beating it to death like a cheap piñata

It was insane to think that a society in an Information Age was not going to need Mondiale and its skills and capacities. But the world had stopped believing in that. The (DotCom) Bubble was the Terror, just like that. And the stock had cratered.

The 350 used PCs showed up very quickly. Most of their hard disks were crammed with pirate software, viruses, and pornography, but that posed no problems. Van stuck the 350 PC motherboards into hand-welded frames. He installed a completely new operating system that turned them all into small components of a monster system

But computer networks didn’t have walls. So the “firewall” metaphor was just that, a metaphor. A far more fertile approach would be a computational immune system

My boss hates the NSA. They’re all over our turf. They killed all the crypto initiatives. They made security bad and kept it bad, just so they could spy the easy way.” Van put his cup down. “They suck

Well, Tom finally, completely crashed. Basically, Tom is a prisoner now. They wouldn’t send a guy like that to just any mental clinic, you know. They built one around him, the way they did for Howard Hughes

The KH-13,” Tony said. A spy satellite. “I’ve heard of it,” Van said. “It is an overengineered, sorry-ass piece of junk.” “I heard that, too

Van, look out the window, okay? This is Washington! You don’t get the luxury of minding your own business in this town. The KH-13 is political. It is the kind of problem that comes looking for you

The ideal flying assassination weapon for kamikaze terrorists would be a private business jet

Private jet owners were America’s richest people. Nobody in Congress dared to offend them

If anybody was a serious terrorist security problem, it was rogue rich people

Van had never expected outer space to be so rich in supersecret high technology, but in point of fact, it was fascinating

Van recognized the folders he was confronting as a classic “Pearl Harbor file.” Whenever a big-ticket project went sour, paperwork escalated as the guilty parties tried to cover their asses from the investigation that they knew was coming. The folders began to bulge, dent, and rip. There was wear and tear as the evidence got tossed from hand to hand like a hot potato

This folder here, this blue thing, this is a legal trail. I’d have to sign off on it to look at this blue folder. Then your bosses would be all over me. Right away. They’d nail me for it because I was the last guy to touch the hot potato.” Hickok narrowed his eyes. “Damn. I never thought about it that way. So that’s your big problem, huh? You don’t want your nose in a mousetrap.” “You bet that’s my problem.” “That’s right,” Hickok admitted. “They’d do that kind of thing, too

Van knew that the CCIAB had many pressing problems on its agenda. These were serious political challenges innate to any reform in computer security

Basically, these problems had one commonality: they couldn’t be programmed away or fixed by engineers. They could only be solved through sincere, extensive, fully briefed bargaining and negotiation among the power players. That was why nothing much had ever happened to resolve those problems

And even the NRO and NSA were terrified of Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld had once been the boss of the futurists at RAND. Rumsfeld had a horrible knack for asking simple, embarrassing questions that nobody had ever thought about before. Nobody wanted to cross him

But Michael Hickok was a man of action. It wasn’t in him to waste time. He watched Van’s office routines, then he made himself useful. Van’s least favorite job was to demo security gadgets for the Vault’s many CyberWar groupies

Van found that it refreshed his mind to tinker with lethal hardware. Guns inspired Van, they got him out of his mental box. When Van returned from the firing ranges to bend his full attention onto the KH-13 spy satellite, the satellite problem cracked around the edges

The truth was that the satellite’s so-called software problems had nothing to do with the satellite’s software

It wasn’t like they really meant to neglect each other. They just arranged their lives so that they always could

They used their smarts and knowledge to lop off all time for each other. There was something inhuman about being dutiful workaholics, something that wrecked marriages, shattered families, and made a man and woman shrivel up inside

Major General Wessler had an aeronautics degree, an MBA, and had worked for both NATO and NASA. General Wessler was not just any everyday general. He was a literal rocket scientist. Wessler wore an elastic blue one-piece jumpsuit with starred shoulders and aU.S. SPACE FORCE breast patch

BUMPER has an unexamined assumption in its design specs. BUMPER assumes that debris cannot intercept a spacecraft from more than ten degrees above or below a plane tangent to the Earth normal.” Wessler scratched the back of his neck. “Of course. Otherwise that debris would fall right into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up immediately.” “No,” said Van. “Not if the debris were coming off of the spacecraft itself

*This is where Dr. Vandeveer and I part company, sir,” Hickok said eagerly. “Because I do know! And it’s no damn little elves, either. We are under attack, sir! This is spacewar !” *

Spin it on the longitudinal axis. That’ll fling the loose dust off, and whenever these, uh, episodes happen again . . . well, spinning will spread the stresses evenly across the whole spacecraft

I can’t go to my best people and tell them to screw up our satellite on the say-so of some goofball from Mondiale

*You useless sumnabitches couldn’t run a model rocket show!” *

Master Sergeant, I really don’t believe this is your game.” Hickok leveled a throat-cutting stare at him. “Oh, so it’s a game to you, is it? You can’t get your big square head around an asymmetric threat, General! No wonder they hit the damn Pentagon out of a clear blue sky. I’d rather dig ditches in Lebanon than hang out with you pie-eating game-boys. Jesus Christ

The failure gnawed at Van. He was right, he knew he was right. Why hadn’t that worked? Why hadn’t he been more convincing? Two reasons, really. The first was painful and personal. He, Dr. Derek Vandeveer, was a geek

Mondiale was only one aspect of a much deeper crisis. He should never have sold out to private industry in the first place

Phantoms of shame and guilt danced on the snowy road ahead of him. Not only was he not a true leader, he was not truly a scientist, either. That was the tragic core of the whole ugly mess. Computer Science was a fraud. It always had been. It was the only branch of science ever named after a gadget

They called it “SoftwareEngineering,” but that wasn’t engineering, either. If he’d been a true engineer like his grandfather, he would never have gone to the Space Force with such a cheap, lousy hack. He had brought them a half-baked notion.

Why had he ever, ever believed in that crap? As a last, fatal bottom line, what kind of terrible verdict was that on his own integrity and good judgment?

This was a billionaire federal contractor at work, thought Van, with a potent mix of private and public money. It had to get like this, when fewer and fewer ultra-rich people controlled bigger and bigger chunks of America’s economy. Peel a few labels off, and the government’s suppliers and buyers turn out to be the very same guy

Derek, this is such a good place. This is just what life was like when people just like us were really happy. The work is challenging. We get creative freedom. They really pay us. It’s a beautiful little campus. The food is fantastic, there’s all kinds of cool hardware, there’s day care . . . I love it up here

How frail the world was. He’d never known, until he stepped behind the curtain of power, that Civilization was mostly a matter of keeping up appearances

To run the world, you had to find it in yourself to grit your teeth and just fake it. Just stare them down, never back off. That was where he’d blown it with the General. He hadn’t come to that man with a warrior’s air of command-and-control. “The aura of inevitability

He couldn’t tell her the simple thing that she needed to hear. Even though he knew what that was, more or less. It was something like: “Honey, I missed you just as much as you missed me.” But that wasn’t quite true, and he knew it. Those months apart had brought him an ugly self-wisdom

He had an ability to concentrate and work creatively, and he also had a thorny, geeky isolation. And those were not two different things

In her absence from his life, in the icy vacuum where her warmth had once consoled him, there was a new and powerful emotion growing inside him. As Van floated there at ease under the big winter sky, looked after, fed, watered, loved, now he could see that feeling, now he could finally put a name to what was going on inside of him. It was rage

Tony Carew had gamed the poor bastards. Tony had been their ruin. Because once upon a time, his enemy had been quick, and quiet, and probably always on time. A small, dangerous gang of Green fanatics. But with a warm smile and a big checkbook, Tony had lured them into the system. He made them get official and slow and bureaucratic

*Who would ever guess that building a telescope was all about Natural Gas? Was he being too cruel, too suspicious? His work had changed him. All that dirty work on computer security, stuck inside some bombproof vault. Was he a professional paranoid now? *

Just a sec,” said Van. He had discovered the local network technician on duty. The guy, an Indian, was wearing a bright polyester T-shirt, sky-blue jeans, and joggers. He had a thin hipster chin beard and was leafing through a magazine called Stardust

The round cluster of stars was seething. It was boiling away like hornets at war. It took computers to prove that a jeweled globe of stars was unstable. In any telescope, a globular cluster looked as solid as a baseball, but it was a temporary enterprise

You don’t have to go back to the war, honey. You can stay right here and live with me. Derek, you hate that kind of work. Security work is ugly, dirty work. Sweetheart, maybe I didn’t say this before but . . . things are going really well for me up here

He had the kind of face that cops often had. Cops were people who were never just freely happy to see you. Even if they were nice guys, and many cops were, they always, always had to give you that guardian look first, to size you up to see if you were dangerous, or armed, or insane

Very soon, fatally soon, the CCIAB would be facing the fate of a million other small blue-ribbon boards and small federal advisory committees. Deliver, and die

*Okay, you remember that AFOXAR device we were working on? The hijacker interface that overrides and controls private jets?” “I thought you blew that off, Van. You and your big fat boss can’t afford to rent any big fat private jet for your big fat shindig in Virginia.” “I just found a friend who will loan me his big fat jet.” *

The keyboard of his Linux machine had been pried open. “They’re still in here!” Hickok said tautly

*“You just installed an AFOCI keyboard bug inside my Linux box,” said Van, staring at Wimberley. *

The modern United States military loves troubled, aggressive young men with high IQs,” Wimberley told him

And that’s supposed to give you some kind of right to Watergate my apartment?” Van blurted. “Oh, yeah,” said Wimberley. “It generally does

He was never in his life ever going to fight AlQaeda. Van knew that perfectly well now. CyberSecurity was all about computer policy. Info War was a form of war for high-tech people sitting quietly at desks

Terrorists didn’t fight wars. The whole point of terrorism was to kick a government so hard, in so tender and precious a spot, that the government went nuts from rage and fear. Then the machinery of civilization would pour smoke from the exhaust. It would break down. Back to the tribes and the sermons, the blessed darkness of a world without questions

*Fawn offered Van a paperback. Van took it. An embedded needle twinged in his left forearm. Fawn’s book was an obscure, Czech-printed, English-language paperback edition of some plays and essays of Vaclav Havel. *

Eva told me, yeah, Vaclav Havel is like this saint, but a saint can’t run a government. I mean, very first thing, the country splits in half. Havel is a terrible administrator

I mean, like, when we started whistle-blowing at EnrOn—that was all us women in the Enron office who were doing that, you know. We women at Enron were the only ones who were paying attention to the details. ” Van stared at her. “Boy, those big cowboys in Houston sure thought they were hell on wheels. 'Fast Andy Fastow', Ken Lay...

*This dumb business with Tony’s jet. I got hurt, and we ran out of time to do it right. It’s not fully proofed and tested. That prototype would never work under real-life conditions, any more than Star Wars missile shields can work. It’s vaporware. It’s a hoax!” *

That kludge we stuck together doesn’t even qualify as an alpha rollout.” Pico beamed upon him. “That’s great news, Van. For one terrible moment I thought I was forty years behind.” “It’s possible to build one that works. If you’ve got a spare fleet of satellites and sixty billion

He understood all the crushing issues that had prevented decent, well-meaning people from ever getting anything useful done in national computer security

Problem number one: there was no such thing as a “national” computer

National people were the wrong people to attempt that security job. A nation, any nation, was just too small

Even inside American national borders, you couldn’t wrap computers in the red-white-and-blue. Eighty-five percent of the hardware was owned by private industry. Multinational private industry. Multinational private industry that had gone broke

They had tried to build a commercial for-profit Internet. There was nothing commercial about the Internet any more than there was anything national.

There would be no business. Nothing but it, the Net. And the horror of that freedom could not be endured

Money fell out of it here and there, but that was not its point. It was a tremendous, wrenching effort in pursuit of the sublime. People aiming for the Moon, touching it for a golden moment, and being left with massive bills and rusting gantries

There was some software business around. There was Microsoft, which was a monopoly

The biggest competitor that Microsoft faced wasn’t even a business. It was a new and terrible thing in the world. It was Open Source.

Everyone claimed they wanted secure computers. Everyone was terrified of the consequences of the lawlessness

They wanted something done about it. Until they figured out what effective security really meant for them, what it would do to them. Then no one really wanted secure computers. No one at all

WiFi was just getting started, and when Van thought about it, it filled him with chills

Wi-Fi was a nightmare. The stuff coming down the pike was worse. It was like it was evolving on purpose to make a secure life impossible

In BellLabs, guys like Cobb didn’t even bother with the borders between disciplines. They were the wizards of the coolest, tallest ivory tower around.

February 2001, they shut down Bell Labs in Silicon Valley. First time that Bell Labs ever closed a facility.” “Right, I heard that.” Bell Labs was Lucent now. And Lucent was very broke.

Where were the antiterror warriors who were going to kick everybody’s ass? Trained, efficient, cold-eyed operatives who would crush cyberterror without mercy? To hear Jeb talk, the whole effort had been about procurement issues

Jeb’s audience was drinking Jeb in. This was normal speech to them. Jeb was normalizing the computer world

All automated? No, not exactly. The exact situation involved Michael Hickok standing outside in the gently gathering Virginia darkness with a portable plastic gizmo frankly based on a Nintendo control joystick. Nintendo joysticks worked great, actually. They were extremely dependable interface devices

Van, you are their hero.” “Huh?” “You’re their man, Van. You’re their ball-breaker, you’re their kick-ass guy

They clap till their hands get sore. Because they are terrified of you, man. You are their stud cyberwar general. You are the geek who killed and ate some real military. You rock

This event of yours has been very good to me. The Internet boom is history, but there’s still money in security, and there will be a lot more once people knuckle down and shape up

Dottie had wormed out a host of inside stories that Van had never heard or even dreamed of. This stuff was all cocktail blather, obviously, but it was about himself

Cobb was making connections that no one before him had ever thought to make. He was using systems analysis and information theory to slice through the rest of human knowledge like a layer cake. It was like he had three brains inside one head

Van realized with an adult shock that most of them had gone nowhere at all. Cobb had had a whole lot of really sexy notions that just did not play out in the real world

Van was spending the down payment on a house in order to invade, burgle, wiretap, and hack his wife’s workplace

Then the diva showed him her true colors. The Lady wore a bloody crown. A glassy ring of pulsing light

He never asked my permission to blind them and scorch them with his laser beams. Those poor creatures!” “How could poor animals hide from a reflecting balloon in the sky

When combined with laser reflectivity from a Mylar aerostat, we can refocus effective heat beams over a seventy-five-kilometer radius

*I am very weary of having my family in Taiwan required to sabotage visual imaging chips, just so that major heat sources in a narrow band of laser wavelengths cannot be detected on the ground by spy satellites. It was very tiresome and difficult to get those Taiwanese chips designed, bought, and installed in American spysats, just so that this spacewar laser would not be visible. *

The very good news is, we have successfully defeated the KH-13 satellite. Using this weapon, we burned the KH-13 so effectively that it will never be trusted again

We are about to attack the Iridium spacecraft that is carrying your phone signals, gentlemen

We are beaming Internet traffic up into the sky, from the telescope, right now. Those Internet signals come from all over the planet.” “Don’t the people miss their Internet when you throw it up into outer space?” said Sanjay. “It’s all spam

You have no soul, Anthony Carew. You are a decadent Western intellectual

No, Tony. You are not under arrest. I hacked you and I own you. You are an illegal combatant. It’s the steel box in Cuba for you, you son of a bitch

*I am not beating you, Tony. I am interrogating you. Are there any other ones?” *

So what if I sold out the USA—what about the USA selling me out? I don’t even recognize this country since 9/11. It’s mean! It’s vindictive! It’s aggressive! It’s broke, that’s the worst part. And it invades places! Your country is like a giant Serbia. The people who run it are moron oil company people

Those foreign techs in the Network Operation Center? Five minutes ago they were a bunch of engineers on visas. From now on they are a covert cyberterror cell. If you have to shoot them, that’s fine

The truth was, he loved war. He had never been in war before, but now he recognized war as his home. He loved war more than he loved women, food, or sleep. He would grind his teeth when cyberwarfare was denied him. In moments of peace, he would miss his dear war gone by. He would miss it so

He had heard about such things before, but he had never before seen it happen. He was seeing a troubled young man rehabilitated by his military service

The food tasted great. In Brazil, people could really cook. Why did Brazil never have wars? he wondered. Brazil was a really big country on a big American continent. How come Brazil had no enemies? It didn’t make sense. Brazilians didn’t invent much. Well, that explained it

*Here comes the enemy plane,” said Gonzales. “Okay,” said Hickok, climbing to his feet. “Now this is the part that an Air Force boy likes best.” The Indian actor was flying his newly purchased jet plane. *

*Wimberley stared at Van. “You can really grab jets out of the sky?” Van nodded. “Who the hell are you?” Wimberley demanded. He was shaking. “Where did you come from? What world is this?” *

We are letting them go,” Van told him. “What?” Hickok demanded. “Then why did we just catch ’em?” “We are letting them go because only punk-ass AlQaeda losers crash airplanes. We caught them to show that we can catch them

They are human beings in there,” said Van. “We need to convince them of something important right now. They need to believe that it’s cyberwar or it’s bloody-handed terror suicide, and those are the only kind of wars that get allowed. Now we can make that distinction clear to them

*Okay,” said Hickok. “I know that you know that. What I wanna know is —how do you know that?” “I was inside that plane once,” Van said. “That’s how I know.” *

Derek Vandeveer was also a nonperson. Jeb had a new job handling security with eBay. Fawn had a nice federal post

Van wasn’t looking for any job in computer security, anyway. Van wasn’t exactly looking for much of anything, really. He was searching

He was running a small WebLog. Nobody seemed to understand Web logs yet. Van had one. It was a quiet, fast-paced Web log. He used it to absorb and spread ideas. Van’s Web log involved genuine issues. The genuine issues were the issues that political people lacked clichés for. Web logs interested Van. There was no money in them, yet, and the political campaigners were just catching on. Web logs were in combat for attention. That was the most interesting thing about them. Combat for attention. War of ideas

In his deep exile, Van was doing a lot of reading. His field of study was war. He was reading Clausewitz. Carl von Clausewitz was a dolt. He was reading Liddell-Hart. BH Liddell Hart was full of himself. He was reading Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi was a New-Agey Zen mystic. He was reading Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu had some rather interesting stuff going on

Once he had been bright, whimsical, inventive. Now he was dark, dangerous, inventive

I know this is a bad time for us to have a baby . . . But, you know, the only job offer I’ve got is in Denmark

Four people in our family, that is like a little squad (Lean Family, Agile Squad). We’ll get really quick, and stop complaining so much from now on. We’ll change our lazy habits. We’ll get things done whenever they need to get done

Honey, it is senseless for intelligent people not to have children. Why would I want to vote against the future? What we need is a good strategy. And I’ve got one for us. You will work. I will stay home with the children

It was a very good move for him to get out of Washington. A lateral move, very Liddell-Hart, very Sun Tzu. When power avoided you, a counteravoidance move lured power back in

Now that Van had learned, by startling counterexamples, something about sound and competent governance, he was very aware that the Terror was just the Bubble by another name. It was just as wild, just as turbulent, and just as unlikely to last. No government that was not desperate and totally winging it ever, ever would have asked Dr. Derek Vandeveer to become a Warrior. And yet he had done just that.

He had become a professional. And his profession was always going to be something that didn’t quite exist.

The Terror was merely an overexcited phase, and like the Bubble, it was going to burst of its own hype. And when it did pop, it would be a rather good thing not to be visibly holding the bag

So, I just saw on your WebLog that you’re thinking of moving to Denmark! Well, I’m here in Switzerland

They need someone there to knock heads,” Van said. “Uh, yeah. Officially, this post calls for an executive with advanced technical skills who has had private-sector international telecom experience and has also served in an advanced capacity in a major government. There’s just one hitch. There is no such guy. And if there was . . . Well, no guy in the world who had done all those things would ever want to come and get involved in this. This is like trench warfare

Hope is not a feeling, Jimmie. Hope is not the belief that things will turn out well, but the conviction that what we are doing makes sense, no matter how things turn out.” Jimmie said nothing for a long moment. Then he spoke in a new voice. “Van, how long have you been reading Vaclav Havel?”

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