Today's Reading

"Unknown, at this time, sir. It's going to take some time to decipher how they hacked the systems and we're a long, long way from knowing who. But, sir, a more troubling problem presents itself."

"What's that?" Vickers asks. Alyx tosses the football to Vickers, who catches it one-handed.

"Good catch," Alyx says. "If they're on the NSA and DOD networks, you can bet your ass they've infiltrated most everything else."

Vickers leans forward in his chair. "Such as?"

"Sir, whoever they are," Zane answers, "they've probably spent years probing our networks, searching for weaknesses. Once they found a way in, they most likely spent many more months mapping our systems."

Alyx uncrosses her legs and leans forward in her chair. "What Zane is trying to say is that they've got us by the balls."

"But who?" Vickers asks.

"Won't know until we know," Alyx replies.

The intercom buzzes and the general's aide says, "Sir, Ms. Alvarez is on line one."

Vickers stabs the button and puts the phone to his ear. "Yes, ma'am?" He listens for a moment before hanging up the phone. "You two go to work. Set up in one of the video conference rooms in case I need you." He scribbles something on a piece of paper and slides it across the desk. "That phone number will reach me anywhere in the world, twenty-four/seven. I've been summoned to the White House."


Weatherford, Oklahoma

Gage Larson eases down his driveway, the gravel crunching under the tires and the vast Oklahoma horizon filling the windshield. Weatherford, Oklahoma, is a dot on the map an hour west of Oklahoma City. Once a hotbed of oil drilling activity, the town has returned to a sleepy little hamlet after the price of oil dropped through the floor. Now it's back to plowing fields, baling hay, and rounding up cattle, unless you're lucky enough to land a job with the new boom—wind. Gage is one of the lucky ones. Growing up on a farm, Gage has a lifetime of knowledge when it comes to fixing things.

The Larson family stretches back four generations in Weatherford. Gage's great-great-grandfather homesteaded the original 160 acres after the land was released during the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening in 1892. Over time the previous Larsons added to the original homestead and today the family farms 1,280 acres, a section two miles square. But Gage and Holly, his wife, wanting something different, bought ten acres and a two-bedroom fixer-upper on the edge of town. Now they can walk to get a gallon of milk instead of having to drive four miles into town.

The highest point in Custer County is not much taller than an average sapling, and the rest is flat farmland that spreads as far as the eye can see. This makes Weatherford the perfect location to harness one of Mother Earth's most abundant resources. The road transitions from gravel to potted pavement and the tires sing along the asphalt. The morning sun is bright, and Gage fumbles around in the seat for his sunglasses. He finds them tangled in the seat belt and pulls them free, plopping them in place. A farmer on his tractor is raking cut hay into furrows to be baled and the sweet aroma of
freshly mown grass fills the cab. Nearing his turnoff Gage watches the shadows dancing across the field as the massive blades rotate in the wind and he pulls into the drive and bounces across the cattle guard.

Rounding a bend in the road, he can't help but marvel every time at the sheer size of the machines. The tower stands 260 feet tall and the blades extend another 126 feet beyond the hub, making the overall height 389 feet. In the distance, the towering turbines are lined out in a row that stretches for miles—ninety-eight in all. And Gage's job is to keep them turning. Each turbine is capable of producing 1.5 megawatts of electricity, and the entire wind farm pumps out 147 megawatts, enough to power over ninety thousand homes.

Gage pulls up to the closest turbine and kills the engine. He steps out, grabs his climbing harness from the back, and pulls it on. The newer turbines are outfitted with a small service elevator, but it traverses only a portion of the tower, leaving plenty of climbing to do. He cinches the harness tight and ties a line to his toolbox and a small ice chest and carries everything inside the tower. He wedges himself into the small elevator car and punches the button. It's a tight fit for Gage, who stands six-two and weighs north of 230 pounds. Although heavy, his weight is evenly distributed across his large frame. When the elevator stops, he wiggles out onto a small platform and begins to climb, the ice chest and toolbox dangling beneath him. The higher he goes the narrower the tower becomes. By the time he's reached the opening to the nacelle, or hub housing, he's drenched in sweat. In the August heat it's like climbing through a blast furnace. Gage pulls himself through the hatch carved into the floor and immediately triggers the power doors that open
outward away from the guts of the machine.

The view is breathtaking, with visibility stretching for miles. In the far distance, he can just make out the top of the newest skyscraper towering over Oklahoma City. He pulls out his phone and snaps a few pictures to show Holly, his wife, after work. Little does he know the photographs will be the last he takes of ordinary life.

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