When the Devil Whistles


Something Wicked This Way Came

SAMUEL STIMSON MADE HIS LAST TWO MISTAKES ON MARCH 23. BOREDOM caused the first. He had run the last network diagnostic on his task list, the servers were all up and running, and none of the marketing staff had crashed their computers or forgotten their passwords all day. So Samuel played solitaire and Minesweeper for a while. He IMed his gaming buddies, but none of them had time to talk. And then he did what he had always done when sitting in front of a computer with nothing to do: go looking for trouble.

He didn’t have to look far. Two floors above him in a secure room sat his employer’s secure server, the S-4. Samuel didn’t have access to it. In fact, the only person in the IT department authorized to work on S-4 was Franklin Roh, an ex-Microsoft drone who had half of Samuel’s skill, but double his salary. Not even Franklin’s little toady, Rajiv, knew what was on it.

Guessing what the mystery server held was a favorite pastime for the IT staff, particularly when Franklin and Rajiv were in the room. Speculation ran the gamut from classified government contracts to evidence of executive tax fraud, but Franklin never reacted to any of their theories, no matter how serious or outrageous. He just sat there watching them with cool arrogance. Maybe he learned that look growing up in Korea. Maybe they taught it at Microsoft. Whatever—it bugged Samuel.

The image of Franklin Roh’s impassive Asian face gave Samuel the final little push he needed to act. He had been an accomplished hacker in college and grad school—so accomplished that he had never been caught. He didn’t vandalize systems or steal data files like some other hackers but always left the phrase “Something wicked this way came” buried in some unobtrusive spot to unnerve whatever systems engineer later found it. Four years had passed since his last foray into forbidden cyberspace, but he had kept up on recent developments in computer security, and he was pretty sure he could beat anything that Franklin could create.

He went to work. As he expected, the server was well protected by top-of-the-line commercial security software, which had been configured with perfect competence but no creativity. Just what he expected from a Microsoft guy.

He didn’t even bother with a direct assault on the server. Conventional firewalls were good at spotting and stopping those kinds of attacks. Careless users were easy targets, and careless senior executives were easiest of all. He did a couple of discreet searches and found a list of the six senior executives with access to the S-4 server. Then he ran a user log and found that four of them were on the system. One, Richard Addison, had been logged in for seventeen days and fourteen hours, but his computer had been inactive for almost two days.

Samuel grinned. Time for a little stroll.

He got up and walked out of the warren of IT cubicles, grabbing a handful of random tech gear on his way out the door. He took the elevator up to the executive floor and held up his ID as he approached a security station manned by two alert, rock-jawed guards wearing body armor and toting M-16s. He licked his lips and felt tiny drops of sweat prickle his forehead. Those guys always made him nervous—the way their eyes locked onto him every time he got off the elevators and followed him across the lobby, the no-nonsense way they held their guns, the over-the-top SWAT team gear. He always had the feeling that they were just looking for