Read Digital winter Online

Authors: Mark Hitchcock

Digital winter

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HARVEST HOUSE PUBLISHERS

EUGENE, OREGON

All Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to events or locales, is entirely coincidental.

Cover by Left Coast Design, Portland, Oregon

Cover photos©idiz; isoga; Vereshchagin Dmitry, Dima Kalinin / Shutterstock

Mark Hitchcock is represented by William K. Jensen Literary Agency, 119 Bampton Court, Eugene, Oregon 97404.

Alton Gansky is represented by MacGregor Literary, Inc. of Hillsboro, Oregon.

DIGITAL WINTERCopyright © 2012 by Mark Hitchcock and Alton GanskyPublished by Harvest House PublishersEugene, Oregon 97402www.harvesthousepublishers.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hitchcock, Mark, 1959-

Digital winter / Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-7369-4912-5 (pbk.)

ISBN 978-0-7369-4913-2 (eBook)

1. Cyberterrorism—Fiction. 2. Psychological fiction. I. Gansky, Alton. II. Title.

PS3608.I84D54 2012

813'.6—dc23

2011048820

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, digital, photocopy, recording, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Contents

Act 1: Eight Minutes

Prologue: Stanley Elton

1. Roni

2. Jeremy

3. Shavetails

4. Lockdown

5. Stanley

6. Mr. President

7. O'Tool

8. Descent of Darkness

9. Eight Minutes

10. Husbands, Wives, and Mothers

11. Moriarty

12. Mount Weather

13. The Falling Sky

14. Presidential Pain

15. Medical Chaos

16. This Is Crazy

17. The Red Moon Above

18. Ain't Nuthin' Right

Act 2: Eight Days

19. Chaos Theory

20. Roni's Choice

21. An Idea

Act 3: Eight Weeks

22. Placing Blame

23. Liam Burr

24. Donny Boy

25. Eli Shade

26. Things to Come

27. The President Needs a Friend

28. Jonesin'

29. The President's Bedside

30. Lunch

Act 4: Eight Months

31. Meetings

32. Donny

33. Jeremy, Donny, and Shade

Epilogue

Reader Questions

A Word from the Authors

About the Publisher

Act 1Eight MinutesPROLOGUE:Stanley Elton

JANUARY 20, 2014

Shadow, shadow on my right,Shadow, shadow on my left,Shadow, shadow everywhere,Shadow has all the might.

Stanley Elton emerged from the bedroom at precisely 7:10 a.m., his favorite mug in his hand containing his favorite African blend of coffee. Truth was, he had seven favorite mugs, one for each day of the week. He had seven favorite blends of coffee as well, seven favorite dress shirts, seven chosen suits of varying shades of gray, and seven power ties.

The morning sunlight had already pushed back some of the thick clouds that covered the parts of San Diego closest to the Pacific. His part of San Diego was called Coronado Island, although it wasn't a true island. Situated on a stretch of land called the Strand, the small community rested on a jut of property that looked from the air like an arthritic thumb sticking into the blue waters.

Founded in 1860, the city of Coronado was home to the elite. North Island Naval Air Station took much of the prime real estate, but there was still plenty of room for retired admirals, CEOs, and entrepreneurs who made sudden wealth in the digital age. A stroll through the city streets sometimes allowed tourists a glimpse of a celebrity.

Stanley Elton was no celebrity or entrepreneur; he wasn't a retired admiral or a man of old money. He was, however, the CEO of San Diego's largest CPA firm, a company whose client list included scores of the top companies in the country. He was on a first-name basis with people often mentioned in theWall Street Journal. For thirty years he worked for OPM Accounting. Most people assumed OPM stood for the founders of the firm, people who died a generation ago. It didn't. Insiders knew OPM stood for Other People's Money. A bit tongue in cheek, but it drew hearty laughs for the few who knew the joke.

“Nice day.” Stanley moved to the open kitchen and kissed his wife on the top of the ear.

“You know that gives me the shivers.” Royce Elton pulled away and tried to rub her ear on her shoulder, her hands busy flipping eggs and turning bacon. A pot next to the frying pan cooked down some oatmeal. Instant oatmeal wasn't good enough for her son, Donny. At least he ate something close to healthy.

“My presence has always made you shiver.” Elton slurped his coffee.

“Shudder is more like it.” Her tone was playful.

“Shiver, shudder; potato, patahto.” He moved from the kitchen and took his usual spot at the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the rolling Pacific. The $3.5 million condo was on the top floor of one of the fifteen ten-story structures on the Strand. Built in the 1960s, the luxury buildings caused such a stir that a city ordinance was passed forbidding similar towering structures in Coronado. Too late and too little.

From the wide living room, Stanley could look to the left and see the Pacific Ocean or look right and see the calm waters of Glorietta Bay. “Water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

“Good thing we have plumbing and coffee.” Royce dropped two pieces of bacon (well done) and two eggs (over hard) onto a scalloped-edged green plate. A moment later, she added two pieces of rye toast.

He stepped to the dining table. “Dining room” would be inaccurate. The only real rooms in the open floor plan were the bathrooms and bedrooms. Royce set the plate on the glass top. She sat next to him, sipping a chocolate diet shake.

“Eating real food while watching you suck on that stuff fills me with guilt.” He stuck a piece of bacon in his mouth.

“You're a man. You're supposed to feel guilty. It goes with the Y chromosome.”

“This is what I get for marrying a geneticist.”

“Brains are sexy.”

“Really? I hadn't heard.”

Royce raised an eyebrow. “You know, I can poison your breakfast.”

“That's why we have Rosa cook our other meals. Cuts down on your opportunity to cash in on the life insurance.” He cut one egg in half and scooped it into his mouth. Stanley didn't like wasting time on trivial things like breakfast. “Busy day?”

“Usual classes at the university, and then I have about four hours in the lab. I'll be late. I have to grade test papers after that. Rosa has something planned for you and Donny.”

“She's as good a cook as she is a nurse.” Down went the second half of the egg.

“She's a jewel. We should pay her more.”

It was Stanley's turn to raise an eyebrow. “Really? She makes good money now.”

“I'm not sure it covers all she does. Dealing with Donny isn't easy.”

Stanley contemplated the comment while gnawing on the bacon. “What do you mean? He sits in his room and doesn't cause any trouble. He's as passive as someone with his condition can be.”

Royce frowned. She hated it when Stanley referred to Donny's challenges ashis condition.

“Sorry,” he said. “You know what I mean. Other people like him can be high maintenance.”

Another frown. “He requires a lot of care, Stan. You know that.”

“Of course. I do my share.”

She touched his arm. “I know, dear. I didn't mean that. You do more than any other father would. You provide an income that allows us to get all the help we need. My professor's salary wouldn't pay for one room in this place. I'm just saying we should reward Rosa. She's been with us since Donny was ten. That's twelve years.”

“She's a trooper. Did you have something in mind?”

“I thought of a paid vacation, but I don't think she'd leave Donny for more than a few days. She's so devoted to him. I know that her car is getting a little long in the tooth. She had to take it into the shop. Cost her a pretty bundle to get the transmission fixed.”

“You want to pay for the repairs?”

“No, I want to buy her a car.”

Stanley lowered his fork. “You're kidding, right?” He could see she wasn't. “You mean like a Porsche or Ferrari or—”

“Of course not. I was thinking of a Prius or some other hybrid. It would save her some gas money.”

Stanley furrowed his brow, narrowed his eyes, and clinched his jaw, but he couldn't maintain the pretense. He had never been angry at his wife and couldn't imagine starting now. The forced frown gave way to the upward pressure of a smile.

“You're working me, aren't you?”