Former assassin Paul Bannerman knows that keeping a low profile is essential, but when he fell in love with the daughter of a legendary New York City cop, he broke his own unspoken rule. When Susan Lesko's life is threatened, the last of Bannerman's objectivity is shattered. Worst of all, his rage could blind Bannerman to an even graver threat that is operating in the shadows. The same covert government agency that disowned Bannerman and his people now plans to use them to test an experimental computer program designed to destroy criminal networks through strategically selected assassinations. The spooks have chosen Paul Bannerman and his operatives to be the guinea pigs in a potentially catastrophic experiment.
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|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
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The secretary of state, Barton Fuller, had never been entirely comfortable with computers. Least of all where intelligence operations were concerned.
While fully appreciating their capabilities, he considered that they tended to encourage the gathering of information, rather than the decisive use of it. An endless flood of data from a million different sources, all needing to be processed and stored. Too much processing, not enough thinking. Need an opinion? A forecast? An assessment of the tottering Soviet economy or of Syria's capacity to produce nuclear weapons? Ask the computer. Never mind that it's almost always wrong. Not enough data, they'll say. Let's pump in some more and ask it again.
It was the computer, in his opinion, more than the Congress, that had pulled the teeth of the CIA. Reduced them all to clerks and analysts. And filled his desk daily with a mound of intelligence reports that he'd long since given up trying to read.
Then, too, he couldn't help feeling that there was something terribly unconfidential about a network of computers.
He could never seem to call up a classified file or read theprintout of an eyes-only telex without wondering whether some pale and pimply faced hacker in Silicon Valley or some damned place had found a way to read over his shoulder.
His own hackers, of course, had done their best to reassure him. Such a thing was not possible, they said. The system used by the State Department, right down to the machine he kept in the study of his home, was absolutely impenetrable. They were certain of it because their security system wasitself designed by computer. There was, he felt sure, a flaw in that logic.
For these reasons alone, therefore, Barton Fuller would have been less than pleased when, on this bright Sunday morning, Roger Clew appeared at his home and produced a laptop Toshiba from a bag that was supposed to contain the wherewithal for their regular Sunday game of platform tennis.
Clew was also two hours early. Barton Fuller was still in his robe, his first cup of coffee in hand, the Washington Post crossword puzzle open but untouched beside his favorite chair. The solitude of an early Sunday was one of his few indulgences. Now young Roger had shattered it, no explanation, just a series of incomplete sentences and mysterious bear-with-me gestures as he busied himself, unbidden, setting up the Toshiba next to Fuller's IBM station, fiddling with cables, connecting the two.
"Unless we're at war and I haven't been told"-Fuller made a show of searching the front page of the Washington Post-"can't whatever that is wait until Monday?"
He made it a rule: Sunday mornings at Briarwood were for platform tennis in winter and clay-court tennis in summer. Or some half-court basketball, depending on the athleticisin of the day's guests. But, barring a legitimate emergency, no shoptalk. Not until noon when a few department heads and the odd senator arrived for an informal working lunch. One's oases were where one finds them. Sunday mornings at Briarwood were his. They restored the body and flushed the mind.
Clew straightened. "Um . . . actually, it can't, sir. The fact is, after you see this, you might tell me not to bother coming in on Monday."
Fuller released a sigh. He had been afraid of this. High drama. It was usually on Monday mornings that the world seemed about to come to end. Or on an evening for which he had theater tickets. It rarely happened on Sunday mornings, Pearl Harbor notwithstanding.
"This is not personal, is it?" he asked. "You're not in some sort of trouble."
"No, sir. Well-um, no."
Certainly clears that up, he thought. "Do I gather then, that this is something Harry and Irwin may not be privy to?" Harry Hagler was special adviser to the Intelligence Committee of the National Security Council; Irwin Kaplan was director of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Except on Sunday mornings. On Sunday mornings they played platform tennis. In fact, Fuller seemed to recall, it was Roger who had suggested that particular foursome in the first place.
"Sir"-Clew turned to face him-"my position is that they know nothing about it. That position may change depending on how this meeting goes."
Another sigh, deeper than the last. "Roger," he said, grimacing, "one of the most attractive things about you is that you've never seen the inside of a law school. Have you been keeping bad company?"
"Ah-Irwin is a lawyer, sir."
"I'd hoped he'd gotten over it. Please consider that all appropriate asses are covered. What say we get on with this?"
"Yes, sir." He continued fiddling. His tennis tote yielded a box of floppy disks. Clew inserted one into the slot of the IBM, another into his laptop. Fuller studied him. In the nearly twenty years he'd known Roger Clew, first in Europe where Roger had spent most of his career, and, for the last three years, in Washington where Roger had been appointed his undersecretary of state for political affairs, Barton Fuller was not sure he'd ever seen him sweat. Not even at tennis. He might glow a bit from time to time, but actually trickle? Never. It would ruin his image. It would be like having his hair mussed. A bit of spinach between his teeth. Being caught ordering a pizza...
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