want to know who set off that warhead and turned the place into a nuclear crap-hole?” Dodge asked.
“So do they, matey. So do they.”
Later, upstairs in his room, Sam tried to watch TV, but no shows held his interest. He worried about the new job and how he would cope. He worried about his mom and what she was thinking. He worried whether he was worrying too much and would not be able to sleep.
Eventually, about eleven-thirty, he flicked off the lights and, despite his worries, fell almost immediately to sleep.
After a while he dreamed, and in his dream he was a knight in strange, electronic armor that fizzled and crackled with electrons, emitting a ghostly greenish glow. Slimy mud dragons with red LED eyes were scaling the walls of the castle around him, jagged daggers held in their teeth. Desperately, he looked around for Dodge for help; there were just too many of them. But he was on his own.
The first of the creatures was almost upon him, the dagger in its strange, doglike jaws.
Sam prepared for battle as the creature opened its mouth, dropping the dagger, and began to bark.
It was a dog, not a dragon; why had he not realized that before? He raised his sword and swung at the creature, which dissolved in a cloud of digital particles.
The barking persisted, though, and the castle was gone, along with the armor and the mud creatures.
The glowing clock on the nightstand said 2:53 a.m.
And the phone was woofing at him again.
15 | PEACH BOTTOM
Dodge said, “Sorry, mate, but you’re out of bed right now. One of our sniffers has picked up a nasty smell on the Net, over by the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania. There’s been a fifteen percent rise in data-packet transfer over the last two hours. We’re going in quiet. Just monitor the activity and decode it, see what’s moving around.” He hung up the phone without saying goodbye.
A guard in a dark suit and curly earpiece was waiting for him by the elevators. He recognized the man, Special Agent Tyler, he recalled, with the gelled-back hairdo and mirrored glasses. The man who had arrested him.
The glasses were missing, but the hair was still the same. Too cool for school .
It was the same routine with the gray van: up the ramp, across the road, and down the ramp on the other side, which still seemed a bit silly, but it was not up to him to argue with their procedures.
Dodge was already seated when Sam entered the control room. He just glanced up as Sam slid into the chair beside him.
“Nothing yet,” he said. “Firewall is wound up tighter than a two-bob watch. All the data traffic looks legit, but that don’t explain a sudden increase at this time o’ the morning.”
“I thought all nuke plants were air-gapped,” Sam said. “Not just firewalled.”
“That’s right. This ain’t coming from the control software. That’s a self-contained system. It’s from the general admin offices. Jump in behind me and see what you make of it.”
Sam picked up the location from his left screen and shot out a probe. As he did that, he scanned the central CDD database for information on Peach Bottom and added in a Google search for good measure.
“It’s an older plant,” he said. “Two BWR units, whatever they are.”
“Boiling water reactors,” Dodge said, not taking his eyes off the screen. “Most of the modern ones are pressurized water reactors, PWRs. Don’t matter. What we want to know is what data is leaking outta that site and who’s picking it up.”
“It’s an inside job,” Sam said after a few moments.
“Too early to tell,” Dodge said. “Could just as easily be an outside hack. There are some old Windows servers on the LAN, so I’m thinking it might be a null session hack.”
“No,” Sam said, more firmly than he felt. “It’s an inside job. I already checked the registry on the old servers, and they’re set to restrict anonymous access.”
“Still don’t mean an inside job,” Dodge said