Early that next morning, Thad was clawing up from a deep and troubled sleep to realize his phone was ringing. Struggling to be alert enough to respond intelligently to whatever it was so important to wake him just after dawn.
His eyes refused to focus on the caller ID, so he just picked up the receiver.
“Tech Sergeant Thaddeus Eyrie?”
“I haven’t heard that in a while.”
“Get used to it, sergeant. This is Captain Thiel from the Base Adjutant’s Office. You’ve been reactivated.”
Thad knew there were various caveats and clauses in military contracts which allowed for this. Once you raise your right hand, the only permanent escape was death. “What do I do now?”
“Just so you’ll know this isn’t a hoax, I’ll let you look up the Air Terminal’s number here on the base. You’ll find it in the Blue Pages of your local phone directory, page six. Call them, give them your name, rank and last four, with this order number… Prepared to copy?”
Thad wrote the long string of letters and digits on a pad he kept by his phone. Orders to fly to DC area and report to the NSA. No uniform, no change in appearance, just show up ready to work. That had to be connected to what kept Mantis so busy he couldn’t respond.
Thad hoped he could finish his Bread and Toast tutorials before he got there, because he was sure he would need them.
While waiting for Thad to arrive, Mantis finally learned his surveillance target that day was a known criminal hacker, and was found in the company of three others. None of them were US citizens. They readily admitted to the work they had been doing, because they had finished and received the final payments. Where these men came from, going to prison for life, or even execution, was not so bad if you left a fat sum in the bank back home for your family.
His briefing was short on details, and he knew better than to ask questions — it was always “need to know.” He had already known of the planned military adventure somewhere on the other side of the planet, and that it was the first time such activity took place under CIA command and control, versus simply with their cooperation as in the past. He also knew now it had gone badly. They had not gotten to the nest of crackers in time, and something had ripped through the military networks and left everything in utter chaos. SIPRNet had been compromised, and most networks were simply taken offline to avoid exacerbating the problem. But precious few personnel even had a clue how to do war the old fashioned ways. Imagine computing artillery fire with paper, pencil, protractors, slide rules and topographical maps, not to mention the huge amount of time lost in having to actually speak the jargon over radios. Drone flights were simply impossible.
Plenty of stateside networking was a mess, too. Manny’s mission now was to get his new training site up and running ASAP, because a lot of mission critical stuff was being moved to the Bread and Toast operating system. This was something previously considered, but now moving full speed ahead. The first three class cycles would be trainers themselves from all branches of the government.
Mantis was told to pin on his CW4, and that his newly reactivated training specialist NCO was promoted to E-7 immediately upon arrival. Thad was now a Master Sergeant. Mantis chuckled to himself at how cheap that was compared to a civilian contract. Even as the briefing was concluded, there were plans to convert one of the larger buildings to a Bread and Toast training center for the entire government. No, it was not possible to simply forget all the other operating systems, but for once there was a very decisive and concerted effort to force a change as thorough as possible, in as short a time as possible, and politics be damned.
Brandon Breeze had been hoping to sell just enough support licenses to break even in five years. Today he was looking at a billion dollar initial start up award, and an otherwise open contract.