Knight Moves – Julie Moffett

It’s not like I woke up on a Monday morning expecting to become a spy, but that’s exactly what happened. It’s not the kind of thing a normal, almost sixteen-year-old girl expects to happen on a regular school day in early October. I guess that’s the problem. I’m not exactly normal. My name is Angel Sinclair, and I’m a senior at the Excalibur Academy for Technologically Gifted and Talented in Washington, DC. I’m younger than most seniors because I skipped a grade. I stand five feet three, have red hair, freckles, and blue eyes, and I’m definitely not the kind of person who leaps to mind when you think of the charm of James Bond, the physical prowess of Jason Bourne, or the wit of Mata Hari. I’m just an ordinary geek girl, hacker, and outsider. To put it bluntly, I like people about as much as I like Microsoft patches, which isn’t much. However, my life as a loner drastically changed a few weeks ago when two of my friends— Frankie Chang and Wally Harris—helped me save our vice principal and bring down a hacker using technology and old-fashioned teamwork. I wasn’t sure what was more momentous—that I’d made friends or that I’d caught the eye of the NSA with my hacking prowess. I was still trying to decide if those were good things or bad things. Regardless, Wally, Frankie, and I decided we were going to be kind of like a Scooby gang, solving mysteries and calling ourselves the White Knights. Frankie even made us a cool logo with a white chess piece. Unfortunately, no other mysteries had yet presented themselves, but we were hopeful.

After a week of random students stopping me in the hallway to ask me questions about how we’d saved the vice principal, things were slowly getting back to normal at Excalibur. Wally—one of the smartest guys I knew and an ace hacker—had basked in his fifteen minutes of fame at the school before most people went back to ignoring him. I returned to my usual invisible self almost immediately, which I should have expected, but it was depressing anyway. Frankie, on the other hand, continued to chat and make friends with everyone she met like they were her long-lost soul mates. I’ve never met anyone nicer, but sometimes her faith in people scares me. Today, as the bell rang on a gloriously sunny afternoon, I streamed out of the school with the other students. Students bumped into me as I was carried along by the crowd to the bus. I saw Ms. Swanson, the headmistress, standing next to a man wearing jeans, a leather jacket, and dark sunglasses. He leaned casually against the bus, his arms crossed against his chest.

I knew immediately who he was. Slash. That’s not his real name, obviously. He works for the NSA and is probably a real spy, thus the code name. I was so surprised to see him, I stopped in midstep and nearly got trampled by the other students. The headmistress spotted me and motioned for me to come over, so I gulped and tried to act cool as I detached myself from the herd and turned their way. “There you are, Angel,” the headmistress greeted me. “There’s someone here who wants to talk to you.” Slash’s mouth curved into a smile. “Hello, Angel.

” Slash was the most talented hacker I’d ever met, outside of my mentor and idol, Lexi Carmichael, a female tech head who was shattering ceilings left and right. She also happened to be Slash’s significant other. “Hey, Slash,” I said. “What brings you to high school on a Monday afternoon? Is everything okay with Lexi?” “Lexi’s fine. I’m here to speak with you.” He pushed off the bus. His eyes remained hidden behind the sunglasses, so I couldn’t gauge how serious, or not, this visit was supposed to be. “The headmistress cleared this, if you’re up to it. It’s official government business.” “Oh.

” I looked between Ms. Swanson and Slash, my breath hitching in my throat. “Sure, I’m fine with it, of course.” Still, my heart beat a little faster. For a moment, I wondered if he had news about my father, who’d vanished when I was eighteen months old. I’d recently discovered Dad might have been a spy. Not at the CIA—where most spies are born—but at the NSA. I don’t know for certain if my father was a secret agent or not, but I’d recently confirmed there was a good chance he was still alive and somehow connected to the NSA. Since Slash worked at the NSA, he might know or, at the very least, could find out. But I’d learned the world of espionage was devious and dangerous while trying to find out what had happened to my father.

I wasn’t ready to trust anyone, even Slash, until I had more information. “So, what’s up?” I’d been going for a nonchalant tone, but my voice sounded apprehensive instead. Slash slipped off his sunglasses and hooked them onto the front of his shirt. His eyes were serious. “You got a few minutes to chat privately?” Chapter Two ANGEL SINCLAIR I did, but my anxiety skyrocketed. I had no idea what the US government could possibly want with me, unless it involved my past hacking. I swallowed my nervousness and looked around the busy parking lot. “You want to talk about it here?” “How about the park?” Slash dipped his dark head to the right. “It’s quieter and just a short walk from here.” I nodded, so we parted ways with the headmistress.

As we began to walk, I shoved my hands in the pockets of my hoodie. The air was cool but not cold, and the sun warmed my head and shoulders. Thankfully, my backpack was light, with just math and physics books. As we cleared the parking lot, I noticed a brown sedan moving slowly down the street. There was something familiar about the car, although oddly, the driver didn’t appear to have his eyes on the road, but on us. Why would he be watching us? Now I remembered where I’d seen the car before. Right on my street at home when I was walking the dog. I’m sure it was the same car, because I’m naturally observant and it had been driving slowly past me. Now the same car just appeared at my school out of the blue? What were the odds of that? Before I could mention it to Slash, the car sped off. For now, I held my tongue and focused on what he had come to talk to me about.

After we made it to the sidewalk, Slash spoke again. “Angel, I’m here to personally invite you to enroll in a specialized institution, a school, sponsored by the US government. Its existence is classified, so before I go any further, I must have your assurance that you will not provide details of this conversation to anyone unless cleared specifically by me.” I stopped in my tracks, confused. “A specialized school? What does that mean?” He put a light hand under my elbow, moving me along the sidewalk again. “I’m about to tell you, if I have your assurance that this conversation will remain confidential.” I didn’t have to ask him how he would hold me to my assurance. He was the NSA, after all. A part of me felt a tiny flicker of concern, but curiosity and interest roared to life in my brain. “Of course, I give you my assurance.

” My voice held a little catch of excitement. “Tell me more.” We stopped under a large oak that cast long shadows. Slash stood in the shade watching the street while I faced him, staying in the sun and enjoying the warmth. “The school is called the Underage Training Operative Program, or UTOP,” he said. “It’s a joint program funded by the CIA, NSA, and DIA.” “What’s the DIA?” I asked. “The Defense Intelligence Agency.” “Oh. What kind of school is sponsored by three government intelligence agencies?” “A very sensitive one.

It’s a normal school in many ways. Students are required to take regular coursework in math, science, English, history, and foreign languages. It does, however, have an additional, and significant, curriculum that won’t be discussed at this point.” That only piqued my interest further. “Does it include classes in computer science and cybersecurity?” “Of course. The best in the country. I assure you, Angel, the curriculum is quite advanced. The student body is made up of American citizens aged sixteen to twenty-one from all over the US and corresponding territories—all of whom are carefully vetted and who must meet specific intelligence and skill parameters.” “Such as?” “In your case, we are, naturally, interested in your hacking skills, both offensive and defensive. But that’s not all.

Your innovation and creativity intrigue us, as well as your IQ scores, which are high across the board. You show unique promise.” I didn’t have to ask him how he knew my IQ scores. But I had a lot of questions. “You said UTOP. The word operative was in there. Are we talking about a spy school?” He lifted his hands. “Some people might call it that. I like to think of it as a specialized training academy. Because of the sensitive nature of the material that will be covered, students must live on campus in dormitories.

It’s essentially four years of a specialized college, courtesy of Uncle Sam.” That certainly sweetened the deal, but the cautious part of me wanted to know more. “So, what’s the catch?” “The catch is a commitment of at least of four years of work in whichever intelligence agency we decide to place you with after graduation.” “Wait. You place us? We don’t get a say where we work?” “You can express a preference, but ultimately, the decision is made by a committee, based on a number of factors, including jobs where we may have a shortage of skills. But make no mistake. UTOP trains operatives. If selected to the program, that would be your primary function.” It was a lot for me to take in. My thoughts were jumping around so much, it made me dizzy.

“Does this have anything to do with me, Frankie, and Wally taking down Omar Haider?” Haider was the Iraqi hacker who had been targeting US veterans. The three of us had managed to track him down and deliver him to the NSA. Not as quite so neatly as that implied, but that was another story. Slash nodded. “All of you caught the attention of certain individuals at the NSA and CIA.” “Wow, that is so cool.” Suddenly, my mouth caught up with my brain. “Wait. Are Wally and Frankie invited, too?” “They are.” “No way!” I almost pumped my fist in excitement, but stopped myself, figuring it probably wasn’t something a suave operative would do.

“That’s great.” Slash seemed amused by my reaction. I wondered if he knew how thrilled I was that my only two friends in the world had a chance to do this with me. “Okay, so theoretically, let’s say I want to go to this school, college, training academy, or whatever you want to call it. I just tell my mom and sister I’m going to a spy school, pack up, leave Excalibur, and move into a dorm to begin a new life?” “Not exactly.” He glanced around as if making sure we couldn’t be overheard. “You tell your mother and sister you have been selected as the recipient of a special government scholarship to attend an exclusive four-year university program with a focus in science and technology and a guaranteed job when you exit.” “Oh. What about finishing this year of high school? And I’m not sixteen for another couple of weeks.” “I know.

You’re close enough to meet the age deadline, and I’m confident you’re more than capable, intellectually, to handle the academics at UTOP.” He’d placed an emphasis on intellectually, which made me wonder what other parts he might worry about me being able to handle. Still, I couldn’t deny it was an amazing offer. I’d planned on going to Georgetown University. I was already taking college classes online there and had applied for a full-ride scholarship. I had a good shot at it, but it wasn’t guaranteed. Neither was a job after graduation. Technically, I wanted to work for the government after graduation. While I would certainly make more money in the private sector, the government is where I would see the real action. This school, UTOP, would guarantee me a job in intelligence and provide me with specialized training for exactly what I wanted to do…at no cost to myself or my family.

It seemed like a win-win situation, although with the government, I knew better. There was always a price to pay, perhaps one I couldn’t see at this point. Still, I was intrigued. I regarded Slash thoughtfully, foreseeing a potential problem. “My mom has to sign off on it?” “Of course. You’re under eighteen, so it’s up to you to convince her. Keep in mind, she will not know it’s called UTOP. It’s referred to as the George Washington National Training Academy in the official paperwork.” “Where’s the campus located?” “About a two-hour drive from here in central Virginia.” He didn’t offer any further details, and I realized that was all I was going to get for now.

At the very least, it meant my mom could visit occasionally. I knew that would be important to her. “There’s something else you need to know, Angel. It’s not as simple as being invited to UTOP and being automatically accepted. You have to pass the trials…or go home.” My bubble of excitement abruptly deflated. “Trials? What kind of trials?” He nudged me forward, so we started walking again. “The government selects students who have important skills we need in the operative field. Those students who pass must show certain physical, psychological, and emotional skills to continue their training. I’ll be honest with you, we invite a very small and select number of students to try out for UTOP.

You’ll undergo a series of trials for four weeks, most of which are highly challenging on different levels. Unfortunately, only a few of those selected to try out are able to make it through all the trials successfully.” “Wait. Are you saying I could flunk out because I can’t do a pull-up?” Slash chuckled. “I assure you, no one is flunked for not being able to do a pull-up. Scores are cumulative and derived from multiple sources. There are physical challenges, yes, but this is not a fitness test. It’s testing your specific capabilities and skills in numerous areas in the field. But it’s also testing the way your mind works, how you process information, and how you handle yourself in stressful and dangerous situations. Also, you don’t flunk.

It’s just determined that you don’t have the necessary skills required for an operative. It certainly doesn’t mean you can’t ever work for the government or an intelligence agency. In fact, most students who don’t make it through the trials are given special handlers across the agencies. They go on to secure degrees at regular universities and come back to us later. In fact, the last time I looked, ninety-six percent of students who went through the UTOP trials and didn’t make it still returned to work with one of the agencies. That’s an extraordinarily high percentage.” “But not as an operative.” “No.” He paused for a beat. “Not as an operative.

” I stopped, crossed my arms against my chest, and studied him intently. “You actually think I have a shot? Me? A geeky girl with the upper-body strength of an infant?” Slash’s expression softened a bit as if he were remembering something. It occurred to me he might be thinking of Lexi, and maybe she’d once felt the way I did. “This isn’t boot camp, Angel. Regardless, I won’t lie to you. It will be challenging and test you to your limits. All your limits. But, yes, I think you have what it takes to make it as an operative or I wouldn’t have recommended you.” That knocked me back for a second. “You personally recommended me?” “I did.

” So many thoughts ran through my head, most of them screaming in excitement that one of the world’s best wizards behind the keyboard thought I had what it took to be a spy. “And, if I don’t pass, I just come back to Excalibur?” “Yes, at the four-week point. They will tell you then whether you made it or not. If you don’t make it, you simply tell your mother it didn’t work out. You cannot, however, tell her the details of the trials. That must remain classified.” “They can tell in four weeks whether I’m spy material or not?” “They can. Sometimes even sooner.” I blew out a breath. “Wow.

This is a lot to think about.” “Yes, it is.” He slid a hand into his leather jacket and pulled out a manila envelope. “Here is the information and the registration packet for you and your mother to review. You have one week to let me know your decision. After that, the slot goes to someone else.” I swallowed hard. “Am I able to talk to Wally and Frankie about this?” “You may, but you must be in a secure location before you discuss anything about it, and nothing can be exchanged electronically. We’ll know. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Oh, I knew what he meant, all right.

The NSA would be watching me. Then it occurred to me that maybe they already were. Perhaps the brown sedan was from the agency, and all of this cloak-anddagger stuff was part of the deal. It was odd, but I figured that was likely the life of a spy. A mystery inside a puzzle. I looked over his shoulder at the rest of the park. Some guy was throwing a Frisbee to his dog, while the young mother had given up on the ducks and was pushing her stroller toward the far side of the pond. It seemed so normal—just an average day in America. People going on about their lives, not having a clue that a short, freckled, redheaded teenager was being recruited by the US government to be a spy. “I understand, Slash,” I said.

And I did. I had one week to make the decision of my life. Chapter Three ANGEL SINCLAIR Slash dropped me off at our apartment complex since I’d missed the bus. I clutched the manila envelope in my hand so tightly I crushed one corner. To my surprise, my older sister, Gwen, was sitting at the dining room table working on a laptop when I walked into the apartment. Her presence was surprising because she usually spent most of her free time with her boyfriend, who lived in Jessup, Maryland. She didn’t typically drop in on Mom and me during the week unless something was up. Our little dog, Mr. Toodles, leaped from her lap and rushed to greet me, yapping excitedly. I bent down and petted him as he licked my hand, then I scooped him up with one arm and walked over to my sister.

“Hey, Gwen, what are you doing here?” I asked. She glanced up from her laptop. “I needed to pick up some papers from Mom, so I swung by. Thought I’d stick around to have dinner with you guys, unless you have plans for tonight.” I shrugged out of my backpack, dropping it on the couch, and put the manila envelope on the table. “Like my social calendar is ever full.” She smiled. She has the same color red hair and blue eyes like I do, but she’s better with people. In school, she was popular, funny, and had a lot of friends—the polar opposite of me. While I do have two friends, it’s a recent development and something I’m still getting used to.

I deposited Mr. Toodles on the couch and slid into a chair at the table across from Gwen. Taking a deep breath, I pulled the manila envelope toward me and opened it. I scanned through the documents. There were several registration and information forms and one small brochure for the academy. The brochure for the GW Training Academy showed pictures of colonial-style buildings, trees, the inside of a dormitory, and a nice gym. There was no address, phone number, or mention of UTOP anywhere. I guess by accepting the nomination, I’d start down that slippery path of not exactly lying to the people around me, but not necessarily providing all the information at hand, either. The life of a spy. “What’s that?” Gwen pointed at the papers now spread across the table.

“I’ve been invited to attend a special school, a college/training academy for students interested in working for the government.” “What?” That got Gwen’s attention. She pushed her laptop aside and put her elbows on the table, her full attention on me. “Are you kidding? After you graduate?” “Actually, starting now. They think I’m ready. It’s a free ride for four years with a four-year commitment to work for the government after that. Then it’s a clean slate. I can either continue to work for the government or leave for the private sector.” Her eyes widened. “Four years of school for free and a guaranteed job? And you’ve been accepted?” “Well, not exactly.

They have to see how I do at first. If I do well, I’m in. If not, I return to Excalibur.” “When did you apply for this? I thought you wanted to go to Georgetown.” “I do. I did. I mean, I didn’t exactly apply for this. Slash nominated me after that thing with the Iraqi hacker.” She sat back in her chair, watching me. “So, the government is recruiting you.

” “You could put it like that.” “Is it going to be dangerous?” I hadn’t thought about that part. I guess it was possible. It was a spy school, after all, so what did I know? Still, I didn’t want to raise the danger factor, because Mom would never let me go. I shrugged it off. “It’s college, Gwen, not Afghanistan.” “Hmmm…” She wasn’t buying my nonchalance. “Where exactly is this academy located?” “Virginia. I bet you can come and visit sometime.” “So, you’re seriously considering it?” “Of course I’m seriously considering it.

My endgame has always been to work for the government. That’s where the action is.” “That’s where the danger is.” I pursed my lips at her. “Don’t pull the big-sister card. You’re overreacting. I’m going to work behind a computer.” “Yes, and look what just happened with that hacker guy. You could have gotten hurt.” “That was…not the norm.

” I pushed the brochure over to her. “See for yourself. It’s totally tame. There are dorms, cafeterias, a gym, and classrooms. It probably has extracurricular activities, too. And, just so you know, I won’t be alone. Wally and Frankie are invited, too.” “Really?” She looked up from the brochure, surprise on her face. “Really. So, I’ll even know people there.

It should be fine. Trust me, if there were danger, Wally would be out. He’s afraid to clip his toenails. Besides, I’ll know after four weeks if I’m in. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll come back to Excalibur and hope the scholarship to Georgetown works out.” She resumed looking over the brochure. “There’s not much information here.” She passed it back to me. “But since Slash is involved, I feel better about it. He really nominated you for this academy?” It was still hard for me to believe—like somehow I’d hit the jackpot.

“He did. Me, Wally, and Frankie. He thinks we have what it takes to succeed there.” “Does this mean your mind is made up?” I considered. Weird, but I’d already made my decision by the time Slash handed me the manila envelope. “Yes. I want to give it a shot.” She still looked doubtful. “You won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work out?” “Of course I’ll be disappointed. But I’m not going to fail.

If Slash thinks I can do this, I can.” I tried not to feel insulted that she looked so doubtful. “Okay, let’s just hope Mom feels the same way.” Chapter Four CANDACE KIM Director of the NSA National Security Operations Center (NSOC) NSA Headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland Crypto-Secure Phone From: Director of The National Security Operations Center (NSOC), National Security Agency (NSA) To: Deputy Director of the Operations Division (DDIR), NSA Classification: Top Secret, No Foreign 0248 GMT Message Follows: Please advise as to the status of the negotiations with the Hidden Avenger. Do we know his endgame or have any proof of the authenticity of his claims? This has director-level attention. End of Message Candace Kim, director of the National Security Operations Center (NSOC) at the NSA, pressed the send button on her phone and leaned back in her desk chair as the text shot into encrypted cyberspace. She would have preferred to call the deputy director of the Operations Division, Jim Avers, from her office phone, but the day had slipped away because of too many meetings and a couple of unexpected fires she’d been compelled to put out. Now she was forced to use an encrypted cell to contact him, as he was no longer in the office. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but she didn’t want to wait a minute longer for an update. No other recent issue had triggered her curiosity as much as the avatar called Hidden Avenger.

Over the years he had thwarted the NSA’s back door into the RSA encryption but advised companies and agencies about dozens of unknown security holes. Was he a good guy or bad? Fourteen years ago, when she’d been a midlevel agent at the NSA, the agency had been able to spy on just about anyone in the world outside the US territory, where they were legally allowed to operate. Using a hidden back door built into the RSA encryption program—the program used by most of the world to transmit secure data—the NSA could open whatever encrypted messages they wanted from anyone, anywhere. Then along came a secretive self-proclaimed do-gooder calling himself the Hidden Avenger, who, without warning, had slammed the door shut with a patch he called ShadowCrypt. The NSA and FBI had spent fourteen years and employed dozens of their best hackers, researchers, and cybersecurity experts trying to track him down and had gotten exactly nowhere. Now he’d resurfaced, and Candace wasn’t sure if he was a potential asset for the agency or someone playing them for fools. Either way, his furtive communications had landed on her desk, and sorting out the differences had become her problem. At this point, the Hidden Avenger was offering them critical information to prevent a major terrorist attack, and access to the new back door he’d created in ShadowCrypt. Since nearly all the criminal and terrorist groups worldwide used that encryption, the ability to monitor their communications could return the NSA to its glory days before the patch. If she handled this right and brought him in with his new back door, she’d get a lot of credit right at the time when the political leadership would be looking for outstanding candidates to replace the director when he retired.

It was hard to tell if the timing on all of this was chance or purposeful. Was it coincidence the Avenger had abruptly surfaced just as the director of the NSA had internally announced to a small group of high-ranking staff he was retiring next year? She hated the active positioning of some of her peers that had followed, while they tried to establish themselves as his logical replacement. She wouldn’t stoop that low. But if her job performance merited the recognition, and if the country were safer because she’d help bring down a terrorist group, well, then she wasn’t above becoming the first woman director. Her phone suddenly dinged, and she picked it up. Pressing her finger to the button, she typed in her password, scanning Jim’s reply. Crypto-Secure Phone From: Deputy Director of the Operations Division (DDIR), NSA To: Director of the National Security Operations Center (NSOC) Classification: Top Secret, No Foreign 0254 GMT Message Follows: I stopped by your office earlier today, but you weren’t there. The Hidden Avenger will not offer us anything more until we can assure him immunity and safety for his family. Where do we stand on the request to the Justice Department? End of Message Candace had expected the answer. The Hidden Avenger was as cautious as he was clever.

He was going to keep a low profile until he received assurances they could deliver, and he wouldn’t be tricked into exposing himself until he received what he wanted. Technically, he was holding all the leverage right now, but that depended on him remaining anonymous. She was both puzzled and intrigued by reports that the Avenger was actually one of their own, a former NSA agent named Ethan Sinclair who’d vanished fourteen years ago without a trace. There was important information on his departure and disappearance that she was missing and needed to know. His personnel records indicated he was a superior performer with no known personnel issues. What would cause him to quit or vanish? What was he afraid of that would lead him to abandon a family that he loved dearly, by all accounts? Why was he asking for federal protection for himself and his family, as well as immunity from prosecution for any real or accidental crimes? What else was he hiding? None of the Avenger’s requests were simple, but, at this point, he was holding all the cards. And he wouldn’t play unless the NSA could deliver on what he wanted. Well-honed intuition told her the Avenger was running from something, or someone, at the NSA. She was also certain the director of research at the NSA and Sinclair’s former boss, Isaac Remington, knew a lot more than he was sharing. Was he hiding something that would enhance his chances to bring in the Avenger himself, so he could showcase his resourcefulness and became the next director? Or did he know something else—something more sinister that could implicate someone within the agency? Remington would bear watching either way.

From this moment on, she’d have to be extremely careful with whom she shared her concerns. Right now, she trusted Jim Avers implicitly and would rely on him for assistance. We can’t move forward fully yet because the Justice Department needs to understand why he needs immunity. What potential prosecution is he attempting to avoid? It’s one thing if he wants immunity for the ShadowCrypt patch. It’s entirely another if he’s stealing credit card numbers or hacking into commercial firms. If he has engaged in the latter, the Justice Department could not provide immunity from civil suits for the damages. They can deal in federal charges only. She sent the reply, then went to the small refrigerator in her office, removing a bottle of water and taking a drink. She was supposed to go to the gym to prepare for a duathlon—mountain biking and running—but she was leaning toward a quiet night in front of the television instead. She tried to remember if there were any shows on tonight that she liked when her phone dinged again.

Understood. Will go back to the Avenger and see if I can narrow things down a little. Don’t forget he wants to meet with the director. It’s part of his request. Candace stared at the text. Wasn’t it strange that the Hidden Avenger would insist on a private meeting with General Norton? What could possibly be the purpose? It was not widely known within the NSA that he intended to retire soon, nor was the information public yet. In her mind, that meant the Hidden Avenger had inside connections at the NSA or was a former employee, further strengthening the case that Ethan Sinclair might indeed be the man they were looking for. But what had happened to make him go rogue? I spoke with the director yesterday, and he’s agreed to the meeting. General Norton is intrigued by the possibility the Avenger is one of our own. We’ve also been monitoring the terrorist group the Avenger gave us information on and have confirmed heightened chatter.

But without the encryption-breaking back door, we can’t follow what they are saying. Still, the FBI has identified and is tracking the individuals, anyone communicating with them, and identified associates. The reports appear to confirm the Avenger’s information. Jim answered almost immediately. Avenger is using code names for the next time and method of communication with us and will send instructions within two days providing the connection details. He says we’ll know the communication is from him because it will include the word “Ahab.” Ahab? Candace frowned at the screen. What was the purpose of that unusual code name? Was it random, or was he trying to tell them something? She typed out a response. Ahab as in the captain of the whaling ship in Moby Dick or as in King Ahab in the Bible? Check both of these out, as well as any other Ahab that leaps to mind. Look inside the agency first.

Have we ever had an operation called Moby Dick or anything similar that we can tie the name Ahab to? The Avenger strikes me as someone who has a detailed purpose for everything he does. There must be a hidden message there. Find it. Candace sent the message and plopped down in her office chair. Any plans for the gym or television this evening had just gone out the window. It looked like she needed to brew a strong cup of coffee and start reading Moby Dick again.

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