Today, October 1 is the beginning the National Cyber Security Awareness Month and therefore the official launch date of Volume 2 of my fictional novella series on #attribution titled Attribution: Social and Cyber Spaces, that I first self-published on Amazon in #kindlebook, #paperback and #audiobooks (#audible and #itunes) formats last year.
Whether it’s a physical or #cyberattack perpetrated by #nation states, #cybercriminals and #extremists, there has never been a time in history that the topic of #attribution has been as critical as it is today.
I’m so glad to see that my book series continues to cast a spotlight on important social issues suchas #injustice, #cybersecurity, #cybersecurityawareness, #cybersecuritythreats, #familymatters and #autismawareness.
Order copies today for yourself, family, friends, colleagues, book buyers (maybe Netflix), movie producers etc. on Amazon: https://lnkd.in/dPPxHks
Thanks to Amazon KDP, I can share a snippet from volume 2 of my fictional novella below.
Chapter 7: New Delhi, India
Benjamin gripped the straps of his book bag as he trudged towards the private jet with his head down. His feet weighed a ton as each one escorted him to the small aircraft against his will. Electric pains swirled around within him and had been lingering for the last couple of days while Tony arranged for them to leave for India. Every time the thought of what he had to do, what transpired, or the simulation crossed his mind, the pit of his stomach groaned. It was a permanent ache that sat in the base of his gut and traveled up to his throat. He didn’t want to speak, eat, or do anything. He had been keeping the hunger headaches and pains away by sipping on water, eating sliced apples, and sleeping as much as he could. The reality was just too painful and hectic to deal with. The muscles in his eyebrows, cheekbones, lips, and forehead, had begun to ache from the prolonged contorting. Even his tongue began to ache from being stuck at the roof of his mouth. He had not spoken many words since witnessing the explosion that tragically killed his uncle. His heart would race, then calm and repeat at the slightest thought of the incident. He felt violated––scarred.
Boarding the plane, Ben silently nodded at the flight crew as they welcomed them, performed the departure speech, and settled in for the eight-hour flight. “Is the CIA sponsoring this trip?” Ben asked Tony as he pulled out a book.
He glanced over at Benjamin and nodded in confirmation. “Yup, the good ole allyship of America and France are providing the airfare for this trip. But we have to be in and out.”
“How’d you convince them to do it? All this must be expensive.”
“Put in some emergency paperwork for a field investigation.”
Ben nodded again, grateful that Tony handled the logistics. Now he had to be ready to meet with India’s INTERPOL chief and subject him to simulated torture. The thought kept putting an uneasy feeling in his chest. He didn’t want to cause harm to anyone else, yet the Darkness was forcing him to. Save many by hurting a few. But how am I saving anybody? He didn’t understand how showing the chief the simulation would lift the internet band that INTERPOL had set in place or lift the traveling restrictions. If anything, it only seemed like it would make it worse. But voicing those concerns felt futile. Darkness would only start more drama whether he agreed to carry out the tasks or not. He had a slim sliver of hope that something good could arise from the chaos if he did oblige.
The duo decided to use the first few hours to settle in and brainstorm a strategy before landing. The plan would need to be airtight and wouldn’t reveal their identities. Being anonymous would permit them to not get caught up in the global search for the infiltrators. Neither of them could afford to be connected with the confusion. Luckily, Tony packed ski masks, ordered all- black attire, sturdy running shoes, flashlights, and other tools that might be necessary. After they established a plan of action, they used the remaining time to rest. However, the countdown continued to antagonize Benjamin. There was no rest for him.
Closing his eyes resulted in him reliving the moments from his past. He felt tortured in his own body. He wanted to think different thoughts, but his mind only wanted to focus on the pain. He tried distracting himself with books and puzzles that he had brought for the flight, but none worked. He just kept returning to the memories. They had a chokehold on his heart, and he was clueless on how to break it.
Benjamin tussled for hours between his feelings and thoughts while they headed towards their destination–– multiplying his exhaustion. Just a few hours before their estimated time of arrival, Ben was able to push the thoughts away long enough to catch some shuteye. Tony woke him up about an hour before the plane landed to change their clothes and set the bags by the door. Once on the ground, the pair quickly hopped into the backseat of a large black SUV that awaited them on the runway. Tony passed the driver a folded sheet of paper, they exchanged nods, and then the men were off into the early morning.
The new scenery was enough to ease Ben’s mind momentarily. Through the black tinted windows, he noticed the transition of quality within the neighborhoods as they traveled closer to their destination. He glanced down at the simulator and hoped that it would malfunction. Any excuse to get him out of doing this. But he was aware of how dangerous Darkness could get when left alone to its own devices. Sacrifice a few to save many, he repeated to himself during the drive. But he didn’t feel like he was helping. How could complying with the enemy change anything? The evil wouldn’t stop on behalf of his actions. The real fight was between saving himself and believing in a grander scheme that could be bigger than him. But it was hard to see the bigger picture from such a limited perspective.
Ben felt the SUV crawl to a stop and his stomach began twisting into knots. Many words ran through his mind, but none seemed to describe the situation correctly. He just silently obliged the instructions given to him by Tony. Thank God for Tony. Ben found it odd that Tony just supported him with no hesitation. He understood Tony’s commitment to being a true friend to his Uncle James was passed on to him. Throughout the mission, Tony strived for complete transparency in hopes of instilling life skills in Benjamin. Every person should know how to take care of themselves in any situation.
“Okay, you remember the plan?” Tony observed Ben’s face for insight into his current state. He understood that the young boy was frightened. This wasn’t your usual journey into adulthood, but he had to play the cards that life had dealt. Tony gripped the cross on his keys as he did before every mission. “I know you’re probably terrified right now, but stick close to me. This should be an easy in-and-out.” He paused to think of something to comfort him, but words escaped him. “Hey, so my code name is Tony the Tiger.” He laughed in response to Ben’s expression. “I know it’s corny. But I feel like I have to be a tiger when I go into these jobs. They’re make-or-break, so breathe and think. Always try to think before you react or respond to anything. That’s the best advice I can offer you right now.”
Ben was silent as he digested Tony’s advice. “Big Bee Knee is my screen name, so I guess that’s similar. It’s what I did business under.” He shrugged.
“Okay, Big Bee Knee. Stay high alert, follow me, and remember the plan. In and out.”
Ben nodded and they hopped off the vehicle. They were parked a block away from the chief’s home. As they approached the house, Tony led them towards the backyard. Tony helped Ben over the wooden fence and then pulled himself over. Pulling out his key kit, Tony kneeled to unlock the door in a hurry. A master with his craft, he popped the locks within seconds, and they moved silently into the home. They entered the kitchen and moved down a hallway. Tony had researched the home’s blueprint. He also had men on the ground observe the chief’s daily routine for the last several days since the lockdown had begun. Tony decided it would be best to catch him in his home office during the early morning. Besides the chief’s wife, the house would be empty.
As expected, the chief was indeed sitting in his office, when Benjamin and Tony entered the room. Hearing the door open, Chief Frado’s heart began racing once he looked up from his laptop. Silence lay thick in the room as everyone met their eyes. Instinctively, Tony pulled out his gun and locked the door to control the situation. From Tony’s experience, most were not willing to comply without some force.
“Shhhh,” Tony instructed the man while holding his finger to his lips. “I’m Teddy Raider with the CIA and I have to deliver a message to you. It’s imperative that you see it.” He nodded towards Benjamin, who began setting up the equipment. Tony kept his attention on the chief, while Ben laid out the devices on top of the desk within the office.
Chief Frado inspected the unfamiliar hardware and looked back at the men invading his home. “What is all of this?”
Tony eyed Ben. Ben kept his head down and sighed. He didn’t want to actively participate in the mission with a speaking role. But it was his previous involvement with Darkness that designated him as the informer. Sighing again, Benjamin stopped to face Chief Frado. “You were raised by your grandmother after your parents died in separate events. I’m not sure why you were chosen, but you will get to discuss that in a second.” He handed him a pair of glasses. Tony had packed an individual pair for everyone. The situation piqued his curiosity of how far Darkness would go to mentally and emotionally traumatize people. Tony remained by the door while Ben stood next to the chief.
Chief Frado sat silently as his mind ran rampant with confusion. Who would want to do this to me? Placing the glasses on his face, he held his breath as he anticipated the visuals. Ben started the program and the simulation loaded up to a bright white screen. Hesitant of joining the simulation, Ben continued to stand guard next to the chief. I’ve already witnessed my destruction. I don’t need to see anyone else’s. His fingers were intertwined behind his back as he contemplated his next move. Although he did not want to see the chaos, he was curious to know how the Darkness would proceed. Slowly he picked up the glasses and held them in front of him. Shaking his head, he placed the device over his eyes and waited.
“Hello Ramesh Frado,” a voice echoed from the right earbud attached to the glasses. “I’m glad that I’m finally able to speak with you. I’ve been watching you for a very long time.” on?”
“What? What is going on here? Who are you? What is going
Within seconds, colors circled them in a blur until a set was
constructed. They were standing in a small room where the ceiling was close to the top of their heads. Little sunlight was able to illuminate the space where an older woman and a small boy were sitting. Beneath them was a thin mat made of blankets and other materials. She was consoling the child.
“You should remember this scene, Ramesh,” Darkness taunted. Ramesh’s avatar glanced around to inspect his surroundings. Slowly, the memories that he had been blocking out began to all float to the surface of his mind. Ramesh could feel his breathing become restricted. His mouth went dry as he felt a familiar ache. “Surely you remember the days when your mother had to take care of you by herself. Very few resources. Some would say you were poor. You could barely even go to school.”
“Stop this right now!” Ramesh exclaimed. He turned behind him to search for Benjamin. “I’m done playing along with your little simulation. My upbringing is none of your business.”
“Oh, but it is indeed my business. Ramesh Frado, I am your Darkness,” it stepped out from the shadows within the corner of the room. “We’ve been entangled with each other for years. I’ve been watching you from the shadows and learned that you enjoy dancing when no one’s around. But I am there. I see how you haven’t helped your people. I see how you’ve stripped their access to knowledge and resources. I see it all.” Ramesh remained silent as Darkness continued. “Your father passed when you were only a baby from a lung infection not timely treated. But now you have caused many more babies to lose their parents. Ramesh, you are actively participating in the destruction of your community.”
A new scene was fabricated around them. Their avatars were slowly moving through the crowded streets of New Delhi. Some of the citizens were sitting on the curb with bundles of fruit to sell or had set up stands to sell other items. The buildings were dilapidated. The streets were dusty. Sounds from motorcycle- driven carts, horns and bells engulfed them.
“Do you remember the day you realized the world was truly cruel? I believe it was the day the hospital turned your mother away when she too contracted a lung infection. You were forced to watch her suffer. She couldn’t get the medicine and the lack of technology did not allow you to have access to knowledge that could’ve helped her. So, she continued to work to support you through school and the illness went untreated. But now those memories are buried deep within you. And now you are the blocker by restricting internet access to cover you and your buddies’ tracks.”
“Wh-what are you referring to?”
“You know exactly what I’m referring to.” Benjamin noticed the Darkness appeared to increase in size the more alarmed Chief Frado became. Bolder.
“I’m done with this,” Ramesh said, before snatching his glasses off.
Benjamin reached for his glasses, but Darkness stopped him. “Tell him the data breaches will only get worse until they do what’s right.”
“They’ll know. I’ll be seeing you soon for your next assignment, oh Benny my boy,” Darkness said with amusement lacing his tone before the dark figure dispersed into the background graphics.
Benjamin removed his glasses to see Ramesh cradling his head as his elbows were propped on the desk. Chief Frado was repeatedly shaking his head in an attempt to forget the last several minutes. Tony was still standing by the door, but with his glasses also removed. Nodding at Ben, Tony signaled to him to begin packing the device up.
“Who are you really working for? How would you have access to all of this?” Chief Frado tried to grab Ben’s wrist.
“Hey!” Tony exclaimed, storming over towards the desk. “Let him go or you go.” Chief Frado released him while giving Tony a deathly stare.
“Darkness said that the data breaches will only get worse until you do what’s right,” Ben informed in a monotone. He wasn’t upset at how Chief Frado had reacted. It was more expected. Not many could withstand being vividly dragged back to their past and exposed.
“But what’s right?”
“Said you would know,” Ben answered as he and Tony stood by the door. Tony peaked outside the room and noticed lights were now on.
“Let’s go through the window,” Tony instructed. With his gun still drawn, they moved cautiously towards the window.
Ramesh sat at his desk in shock. The event had stunned him speechless. Tony pinched his watch and spoke into it. “Start tracking the Tiger.” With ease, Tony opened the window and Ben climbed out first. Luckily, the home office was on the first floor, so the landing was simple. Tony and Ramesh locked eyes for a final time as Tony backed himself out the window. Once the men were outside, they jogged around the corner. Seconds later, the SUV pulled beside them, and they hopped in.
Snatching off their masks and gloves, they both exhaled a sigh of relief. The ride was silent as the men gathered their thoughts.
“Good job, Benjamin. You handled yourself well,” Tony noted. Ben gave a small tight-lipped grin. He was not pleased. It all seemed pointless. Did introducing Chief Frado to the Darkness even matter? Disturbed, Ben closed his eyes to hold back the emotions that were physically manifesting. Moisture bubbled at the base of his eyes and threatened to fall if he opened them. With the back of his hand, he removed any trails that could alert Tony of his current mindset. God, I don’t want to do any of this. What is even going on anymore? Looking out the window, he noticed the route seemed different. They were approaching a colorful temple that caught Ben’s eye.
“Tony, can we stop here for a second?”
Being sympathetic towards Ben’s first official mission, Tony asked the driver to stop. “We don’t have much time to be here, Benjamin. So just take a few minutes to clear your mind and let’s get back on the road.”
Nodding, Ben hopped out of the car and made the short walk up to the building. A few people were walking around the area, but none said anything to him. There were no doors but instead pillars with arches that welcomed the outdoors. Colors of all varying shades were trimmed in gold. Tiles covered the temple ceilings, floors, and walls. Inside of the open space was a huge dome also covered in gold. Paintings and religious scripts adorned the sacred walls. Benjamin walked towards the back and was greeted by a garden. A single man wearing white sat on the wall with his back facing Benjamin. Not wanting to disturb him, Ben went to the far side of the garden wall.
“God, I’ve been praying to You my whole life because that’s what my parents and grandparents told me was the right thing to do. But now I’m not sure if praying to You is right anymore. What’s even right anymore? I need help. Your help. I need You to do something. I’m trying not to be so mad about everything that has been constantly happening to me, but it’s hard. So hard. Send me a sign or something to let me know that everything will be alright. Amen,” he whispered to himself. Ben kept his eyes closed as he released a few more tears from holding in his stress.
“Excuse me, my friend. Many apologies, but I couldn’t help eavesdropping. You have a beautiful prayer. One filled with many questions and answers.”
Benjamin opened his eyes to see the same man wearing white sitting to the right of him. He was an older man with sprinkled grey hair that complimented his facial features. There was an energy radiating off of him. Ben felt different in his presence. “Um, thank you?” he responded, scooting over. The two now sat turned towards each other.
“I’m so sorry, my friend. I am Tejas.” “Benjamin.”
“You have a beautiful prayer, Benjamin. You just need to believe a little more.”
Believe a little more? Benjamin’s lip lifted from the offense.
He was confused by how this stranger was gauging his belief.
“I’m so sorry again, my friend. I do not wish to insult you but to help.”
“Well God himself isn’t helping me right now, so what do you think you could do?” It wasn’t like Benjamin to be easily offended, but this was a sore spot. His nerves were bad, and his heart was growing cold. The world seemed to offer him very little consideration, so he was just returning the favor.
The man smiled warmly at Ben’s comment. “I understand your pain. We all go through storms and fires, but God is always there with us. You just have to do your part and truly believe. A little faith can go a long way.”
“How can I have faith when God is forcing me to work with my enemy? Why would God do that, huh?” Ben was usually very reserved, but today was different.
“Sometimes you must work with your darkness to conquer it.”
“But how am I supposed to do that?”
“By being the light. Light scares away the darkness. Be true to who you are called to be. Only you can know the true intentions of your heart. Be the light in the darkness. Then you can guide others out too.”
Benjamin stayed silent as he processed Tejas’ message. “But how do I know if what I’m doing is being the light?”
“Light works differently in every pair of eyes, so that is up for your own interpretation.”
The vibration from Ben’s smartwatch alerted him that Tony was ready to go. “Thank you, Tejas. I’ll keep that in mind,” he said before standing to leave. Tejas bowed to him and offered him another warm smile before strolling off into the garden. Ben jogged back to where the SUV was waiting for him, climbed in, and was back on route for the airport. The conversation between him and Tejas echoed like a small bell in his mind. The words gave him some kind of solace that he had been searching and praying for. Light works differently in every pair of eyes…I guess it’s time to be the light.