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netwars 2 - Down Time 2: Suspicion


Previously on netwars 2 — Down Time

About the Book

About the Author







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Previously on netwars 2 — Down Time

With the growing threat of an attack on the financial sector, Oscar Franklin, Rebecca MacDonald, and the specialists at the National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) have been hot on the trail of a group called The Water Boys. It transpires that they are an elite team of traders and financial whizz-kids who appear to have become disgruntled with their own industry.

The NCCU believe that the founder of The Water Boys, Shylock, has been using the anonymity of the Dark Web and the group’s knowledge of the financial sector to develop a malicious piece of code called MalCom, which is threatening to cripple the markets world-wide: slowing trades and destroying faith in the industry.

Rebecca had already managed to infiltrate the group, and was close to learning about their real intentions when her main contact was killed. Looking into his death, she finds links with another trader and member of The Water Boys, and her suspicions are raised.

A joint task force, established with the FBI, has seen the arrival of Agent Greg Stacy at the NCCU in London, and already, his presence has caused a stir. One of his undercover agents has been killed in New York, and the death closely mirrors that of Rebecca’s contact. It soon becomes clear that there is a killer on the loose, targeting The Water Boys. But why?

Meanwhile, Scott Mitchell, whose shady alter ego, Strider, had to be destroyed, has reinvented himself as Phoenix. He is still harnessing the power of the Dark Web to pursue his own ends and is closer than ever to removing his nemesis, The Salesman. But with one last job to do in New York, Mitchell finds himself unwittingly, caught up in an NCCU investigation.

Back in London, one of the leading high-frequency trading firms, Desai Group, is attacked by The Salesman’s team, using the malware, MalCom, to hold the firms data hostage and demanding ransom to release it.

Meanwhile, in the NCCU, as Agent Stacy wades through CCTV footage surrounding the New York killing, Rebecca recognizes her former friend and colleague, Scott Mitchell, as the man Agent Stacy is most keen to question. Mitchell is arrested at the airport on his return to the UK.

About the Book

netwars 2 — Down Time 2: Suspicion
Part 2 of 6

Vigilante hacker Scott Mitchell has been arrested, suspected of killing an elite trader on the streets of New York. But his former colleague Rebecca Macdonald doesn’t believe it for a moment.

A killer is on the loose, targeting members of a secret online group called The Water Boys. The group is already in the frame for helping to develop the malware set to infiltrate the financial sector.

Meanwhile, the first stage of The Salesman launches his plan to cripple the market for his own profit, and the NCCU are clueless.

Will Mitchell be able to clear his name of murder? Will they figure out who the other members of The Water Boys are in time to warn them? And how will they stop MalCom from destroying the global stock markets.

About the Author

M. Sean Coleman launched his career as one of the original writers on Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Online. He has since written and produced original, award-winning shows for MSN, O2, Sony Pictures, Fox, the BBC, and Channel 4. He continues to write novels, graphic novels and tv scripts from his home in London.


Down Time

M. Sean Coleman

Episode Two — SUSPICION


They had left Mitchell alone in the small interview room for over an hour. At one point, another uniformed officer had stuck his head round the door and looked at him, but had left without saying a word. Mitchell was running through a host of scenarios in his head. They hadn’t told him why he was being detained, but at least they hadn’t read him his rights, so he wasn’t under arrest, yet. He guessed that they were trying to make him sweat by keeping him here alone without so much as a hint of what they wanted. He was annoyed that they had confiscated his luggage, but he wasn’t concerned that they would find anything incriminating. He always travelled with a hot machine — one that held no private data and could be disposed of without leaving a trace. Everything he used for his real work was safely locked away in his various apartments.

These days, the police were using their powers to detain suspects at the airport for longer and longer. He just wished he knew what it was they had picked him up for. His passport was completely in order, Scott Mitchell was squeaky clean — he made absolutely sure of it. None of his dealings as Phoenix or any of his other personas could be traced back to Scott Mitchell or he would have been taken in long ago. Yes, he had travelled to New York to remove Chowdri, but as far as his visa was concerned, he was there on business. Besides, he hadn’t actually managed to achieve that task, and he hadn’t even got close to the place he had prepared for it, so it couldn’t be that they’d found something connecting him to Phoenix’s plan.

He had enough access to the servers of many of the major crime-fighting organisations to know that Scott Mitchell’s record was clear, or at least, he had been when he left for New York. So what did they want? And why didn’t they just get on with it? He stood up and stretched. Fortunately, they hadn’t handcuffed him, so he was free to move around, but the room was about two meters square and, with a table and three chairs at its centre, there wasn’t much space to stretch his legs. He arched his back with his hands on his waist and rolled his torso around in a slow circle. He was stiff from the flight, and now from sitting on this hard chair for the last hour. Most of all, though, he was pissed off. He hated being out of control and, right now, that was exactly how he felt. He wished he could get online — he would have figured this out within minutes if he could, rather than sitting here stewing about it. He could feel his fingers itching to key, to follow the trail through their systems and see what they had on him, but they had his laptop, and of all of the injustices he felt at being held here, being denied access to the Internet was the one he resented the most. To reassure himself, he ran through a mental list of the contents of his bag. There was definitely nothing there that could hurt him. No paper trail, no evidence, no trace. To the normal world, Scott Mitchell had been in New York to complete a job he was doing for a small trading firm. The only paperwork they would find would be invoices and receipts to prove that.

Since leaving his job at the NCCU, he had put himself out for hire to anyone who wanted to test how robust their cyber defences were. He had a reputation as being ruthless and efficient, and he came with excellent references from the NCCU themselves, so he’d had no trouble lining up high-profile customers. There were no end of companies out there who were terrified of cyber attack, but had no idea how vulnerable they actually were. Mitchell had made it his job to highlight the risks, and then take a fistful of their dollars helping them mitigate those risks. He was doing a neat little trade above the line, and it provided the perfect cover for all of his international travel and his substantial income. He reassured himself that there was nothing about this trip that could link him to any of his other activities. So why did he feel so nervous?

He heard voices in the corridor and moved away from the door. He knew that anyone coming into the room had the upper hand and he didn’t want to start any interview off on the wrong foot. To them, he must appear the innocent professional, with a track record working for one of their own crime-fighting agencies. He must play this properly. The voices stopped before the door opened. A young, preppy-looking guy walked in, closing the door behind him and turning to face Mitchell. His eyes narrowed just a fraction. There was something there, some intent that Mitchell could see, but couldn’t quite understand. This guy had it in for him.

“Scott Mitchell,” he said, as though he knew him. “Take a seat please.”

Mitchell didn’t move. He wasn’t being hostile, he was just hesitating — wondering how to play this exchange. He watched the young man move to the table and take a seat, laying a laptop on the desk in front of him. He was very neat, with his hair slicked over from a clean parting, held in place by some kind of product. He had piercing blue eyes and a square, clean-shaven jaw. His grey suit looked crisp, but a little like a uniform; as though he was trying too hard to look the part. His accent was American. FBI? CIA? NSA? Scott could already feel himself trying to build a profile of the guy.

The man looked up at him expectantly and used his hand to indicate the seat on the other side of the table. He held Mitchell’s gaze and kept his hand outstretched until Mitchell took a seat. There was a belligerence about the gesture, which belied a certain strength of character, but Mitchell figured that most of it came from the guy’s conviction that he was in the right, and Mitchell, somehow, in the wrong. Mitchell sat, not saying a word, and looked at him impassively. An American, on UK soil. Mitchell was starting to get a sense of what was about to come. He worked to keep his face soft and neutral — he didn’t want to seem either defiant or guilty, it would set the conversation off on the wrong foot. The guy cleared his throat and shifted his laptop a fraction. He was ready to start.

“I’m Agent Greg Stacy, from the FBI Cyber Division,” he said. His accent was clipped. Upper Midwestern. Somewhere like Wisconsin, perhaps. Mitchell nodded. There was no point introducing himself; they already knew who he was.

“What can I help you with, Agent Stacy?” Mitchell asked. His voice was calm and respectful, as though he had nothing to hide, and assumed that he was here to help. It had the desired effect — Agent Stacy hesitated, just a fraction. He had obviously been expecting a more hostile response. Mitchell had managed to make it sound like he’d just popped in for a chat.

“You’ve just flown in from JFK, is that correct?”

“That’s right,” said Mitchell, not volunteering any more information. He was going to make Stacy do all the leg work.

“What was the purpose of your visit?” Stacy asked.

“Business,” said Mitchell. “I was visiting a client.”

“And which client was this?” Stacy asked.

Mitchell leaned back in his seat. He wanted a little more of the control in this conversation.

“First things first,” he said, fixing Stacy with a cool stare. “I wonder if you wouldn’t mind telling me why I’ve been hauled into this room and held here for over an hour, with no information, no refreshments or access to amenities, and no idea what is happening. Perhaps then I’ll be more likely to tell you about my client list.” The question was more direct than aggressive, but Mitchell made sure he kept his voice level and reasonable. He made it sound almost like a friendly enquiry.

Stacy shifted in his seat. He fixed a fake smile to his lips and breathed out. There was something very sinister about the way Stacy was looking at him; Mitchell didn’t like it.

“Okay,” Stacy said. “You’re annoyed and you want to cut straight to the chase. I understand that.” He bent down, opened the neat leather satchel by his feet, and pulled out a manila folder. Mitchell waited, expectantly. There was nothing written on the outside, so he was none the wiser as to what it contained.

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