Thad had never moved that far from his last military assignment. The base was just a few minutes up the interstate highway. While he had been careful to avoid buying a home in the standard flight pattern, he was easily able to notice when runway traffic was heavy.
It was the today, peaking over the past few days. It was also the first time it had been so busy when nothing in the news media, nor even from his old Zoomie pals, indicated what sort of operations were behind it. If anything, there was less noise about it than normal.
It didn’t require a lot of intelligence, either native or military, to guess this was not a mere exercise. It was the same pattern as invasion support somewhere in the world, so that much was obvious. And Mantis had not responded to any attempts to get hold of him.
That day, on his walk along the newly paved section, he stopped at the wrought iron fence as usual and petted the old female dog. But this time he knelt down and stroked her longer than usual. She was hardly disturbed by the extra show of affection, and laid her back against the base of the bars, inviting him to stroke her belly. As he did so, he spoke to her. “So, old girl, with all the time in the world to think sagely of human events, do you suppose we have finally come to the place our troops go to war and nobody talks about it? What do you think about all that noisy air traffic?”
He stayed much longer than normal, but as he walked away, he didn’t throw the ball this time. His mind was far, far away. It was the last time she saw him.
Peter was wishing he could at least have gotten his body far away. It was the first time in his life he could remember not wanting to be near any computers. Here was a team from the NSA all over the servers and relentlessly debriefing him about the Bread Project and every detail he could remember about these cracker attacks from several years before. Well, at least somebody was taking this stuff seriously, for once.
They took all four of his servers and copied logs from the DNS and domain controllers. They had already been familiar with the Bread Project, but seemed particularly interested in how Pete got involved, and all the various motivations and thoughts he had about it. He knew they were making sure there was no reason to think he was somehow involved in all this virus research. Only a fool would ignore how it looks to host creating a virus which attacks very OS but the one your company makes. In the end, it was pretty obvious he was in the clear, and none too glad to see them leaving.
Mantis knew it was routine for him to be isolated immediately from the case once he turned over all the details he had. He was glad of it, because it gave him time to work on setting up his own expanded Bread and Toast lab. It wasn’t hard to get permission to use older hardware from storage and set it up in some empty buildings on the backside of the installation. It was entirely within the mission of his position to prepare and test alternative operating systems, only the scale was a little unusual.
His most unusual requisition was Thad.