Cover image for Tom Clancy's Net Force. Hidden agendas
Title:
Tom Clancy's Net Force. Hidden agendas
Author:
Clancy, Tom, 1947-2013.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Berkley Books, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
366 pages ; 18 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
860 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.7 16.0 36900.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.2 22 Quiz: 21945 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:
ISBN:
9780425171394
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Central Library (HIDDEN AGENDAS) Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Library
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Summary

Summary

In the year 2010, computers are the new superpower. Those who control them control the world. To enforce the New Laws, Congress creates the ultimate computer security agency with the FBI: the Net Force.

Instructions on how to make a bomb...a list of every U.S. spy in the Euro-Asian theater...Someone with access to classified information is posting it on the Internet-and it's costing lives. Net Force Commander Alex Michaels is in the hot seat. Now, before a hostile Senate committee, he must justify the very existence of the Net Force.

Meanwhile, a virus is unleashed that throws the federal financial systems into chaos. And the Net Force operatives must hunt the wily hacker through the twists and turns of cyberspace-down a path that leads them dangerously close to home...


Reviews 1

School Library Journal Review

YA-High drama unfolds in this high-tech thriller. The year is 2010 and virtually everything is run by computers. Someone with access to classified information is leaking secrets and posting it on the Internet for the entire world to see. Congress has created a security agency within the FBI called the Net Force to enforce the Net Laws. It is the job of Commander Alexander Michaels and his team to track down the ruthless hacker, whose illicit postings have caused a multitude of deaths. Readers are introduced to many different characters at the beginning of the book, and it takes several chapters for their relationship to become evident. Numerous acronyms are used for computer terminology and futuristic high-tech weaponry. Although they are spelled out the first time they appear, thereafter just the abbreviations are used. Still, teens will enjoy the prospect of future "virtual reality" and its impact on everyday life as well as the intriguing examination of America's intelligence and defense systems of the future. Although the story line tends to slow down in places, this novel offers international intrigue, murder, romance, treachery, and the limitless possibilities of the new millennium.-Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Acknowledgements Epigraph   PART ONE - A Little Knowledge PROLOGUE Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20   PART TWO - Secrets Mode Manifest Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40   EPILOGUE The bestselling novels of TOM CLANCY   RAINBOW SIX John Clark is used to doing the CIA's dirty work. Now he's taking on the world ... "ACTION-PACKED." --New York Times Book Review   EXECUTIVE ORDERS A devastating terrorist act leaves Jack Ryan as President of the United States ... "UNDOUBTEDLY CLANCY'S BEST YET." --Atlanta Journal-Constitution   DEBT OF HONOR It begins with the murder of an American woman in the back streets of Tokyo. It ends in war ... "A SHOCKER." --Entertainment Weekly   THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER The smash bestseller that launched Clancy's career--the incredible search for a Soviet defector and the nuclear submarine he commands ... "BREATHLESSLY EXCITING." --Washington Post   RED STORM RISING The ultimate scenario for World War III -- the final battle for global control... "THE ULTIMATE WAR GAME ... BRILLIANT." -- Newsweek   PATRIOT GAMES CIA analyst Jack Ryan stops an assassination -- and incurs the wrath of Irish terrorists ... "A HIGH PITCH OF EXCITEMENT." --Wall Street Journal   THE CARDINAL OF THE KREMLIN The superpowers race for the ultimate Star Wars missile defense system ... "CARDINAL EXCITES, ILLUMINATES ... A REAL PAGE-TURNER." --Los Angeles Daily News   CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER The killing of three U.S. officials in Colombia ignites the American government's explosive, and top secret, response... "A CRACKLING GOOD YARN." --Washington Post   THE SUM OF ALL FEARS The disappearance of an Israeli nuclear weapon threatens the balance of power in the Middle East -- and around the world ... "CLANCY AT HIS BEST ... NOT TO BE MISSED." --Dallas Morning News   WITHOUT REMORSE His code name is Mr. Clark. And his work for the CIA is brilliant, cold-blooded, and efficient ... but who is he really? "HIGHLY ENTERTAINING." --Wall Street Journal NOVELS BY TOM CLANCY The Hunt for Red October Red Storm Rising Patriot Games The Cardinal of the Kremlin Clear and Present Danger The Sum of All Fears Without Remorse Debt of Honor Executive Orders Rainbow Six The Bear and the Dragon Red Rabbit The Teeth of the Tiger SSN: Strategies of Submarine Warfare   NONFICTION Submarine: A Guided Tour Inside a Nuclear Warship Armored Cav: A Guided Tour of an Armored Cavalry Regiment Fighter Wing: A Guided Tour of an Air Force Combat Wing Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit Airborne: A Guided Tour of an Airborne Task Force Carrier: A Guided Tour of an Aircraft Carrier Special Forces: A Guided Tour of U.S. Army Special Forces Into the Storm: A Study in Command (written with General Fred Franks, Jr., Ret., and Tony Koltz) Every Man a Tiger (written with General Charles Horner, Ret., and Tony Koltz) Shadow Warriors: Inside the Special Forces (written with General Carl Stiner, Ret., and Tony Koltz) Battle Ready (written with General Tony Zinni, Ret., and Tony Koltz)   CREATED BY TOM CLANCY   Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Operation Barracuda Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Checkmate   CREATED BY TOM CLANCY AND STEVE PIECZENIK   Tom Clancy's Op-Center Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Mirror Image Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Games of State Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Acts of War Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Balance of Power Tom Clancy's Op-Center: State of Siege Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Divide and Conquer Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Line of Control Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Mission of Honor Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Sea of Fire Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Call to Treason Tom Clancy's Op-Center: War of Eagles   Tom Clancy's Net Force Tom Clancy's Net Force: Hidden Agendas Tom Clancy's Net Force: Night Moves Tom Clancy's Net Force: Breaking Point Tom Clancy's Net Force: Point of Impact Tom Clancy's Net Force: CyberNation Tom Clancy's Net Force: State of War Tom Clancy's Net Force: Changing of the Guard Tom Clancy's Net Force: Springboard Tom Clancy's Net Force: The Archimedes Effect   CREATED BY TOM CLANCY AND MARTIN GREENBERG   Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Politika Tom Clancy's Power Plays: ruthless.com Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Shadow Watch Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Bio-Strike Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Cold War Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Cutting Edge Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Zero Hour Tom Clancy's Power Plays: Wild Card This is a work of fiction. Names, characters. places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.     TOM CLANCY'S NET FORCE™: HIDDEN AGENDAS   A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with Netco Partners   PRINTING HISTORY Berkley edition / October 1999   All rights reserved. Copyright © 1999 by Netco Partners. NET FORCE is a trademark of Netco Partners, a partnership of Big Entertainment, Inc., and CP Group. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.   The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is http://www.penguinputnam.com   eISBN : 978-1-101-00244-5   BERKLEY® Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014. BERKLEY and the "B" logo arc trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.       ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We'd like to thank Steve Perry for his creative ideas and his invaluable contributions to the preparations of the manuscript. We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of Martin H. Greenberg, Larry Segriff, Denise Little, John Helfers, Robert Youdelman, Esq., Richard Heller, Esq., and Tom Mallon, Esq.; Mitchell Rubenstein and Laurie Silvers at BIG Entertainment; the wonderful people at Penguin Putnam Inc., including Phyllis Grann, David Shanks, and Tom Colgan; our producers on the ABC mini-series, Gil Cates and Dennis Doty; the brilliant screenwriter and director Rob Lieberman; and all the good people at ABC. As always, we would like to thank Robert Gottlieb of the William Morris Agency, our agent and friend, without whom this book would never have been conceived, as well as Jerry Katzman, Vice Chairman of the William Morris Agency, and his television colleagues. But most important, it is for you, our readers, to determine how successful our collective endeavor has been. "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." -- Louis Brandeis     "Nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. " -Luke, 8:17 PART ONE A Little Knowledge PROLOGUE Wednesday, December 15th, 2010, 2:44 a.m. Baton Rouge, Louisiana A cold and damp winter wind played around the windows of the building, a breeze not strong enough to rattle the still-pristine thermopane glass, but potent enough to tweak an occasional whistle from an art-deco protrusion, whistles that now and then came low enough to sound almost like moans. Alone inside, the night watchman--watch woman in this case--pored over the laptop on the guard station's desk, adding a few personal notes to the text of Professor Jenkins's long and incredibly boring lecture on the strata of rock formations in southern New Zealand. The lecture was from his auditorium-sized class Introduction to Geology, her final science requirement, and she'd put it off as long as she could, but graduation was fast approaching and there was no way around it. She would have taken Astronomy, supposedly a walk, but the classes had been filled before she'd ever logged on to registration. Too bad. Stars were much more interesting than rocks. Kathryn Brant sighed, leaned back in the creaky chair, and rubbed at her eyes. Geology. Bleh. She leaned toward the desk again and got another nail-wrenched-from-wet-wood noise. Lord. Brand-new, and already the chair squeaked as if it had been left out in the Louisiana rain for a couple years. But that was what happened when you bought everything from the lowest bidder--a bid that had probably been the low one because the company had bribed somebody in the Contracts office. Bribery was a normal way of doing business around here. Kat had taken two semesters of political science at LSU, where she was, thankfully, a senior. Studying politics was almost a necessity in Louisiana, where people still spoke fondly of Huey Long, the governor-turned-senator who'd been assassinated in the main part of the capitol building, just up the hall there, more than seventy-five years past. Huey had been one in a long list of rogues who had run the state, and with the public's blessing. After all, the big oil companies had paid for everything for decades, there hadn't been any income tax--no property tax to speak of--and if you were going to elect somebody, why not elect somebody colorful, especially if it didn't cost you anything? Her political science professor had once told the class that when he'd been a teenager, he and his friends would catch a bus to the capitol and sit in the gallery, watching the House in action. More interesting than going to a movie, he'd said. People came from all over the country to study Louisiana politics, and rightly so. She grinned as the wind howled at the glass doors that opened out onto the capitol grounds. Huey was out there, in spirit and in bronze, just around the bend, the spotlight from the top of the tall and pointed building--once the tallest in the entire South, and still pretty much the tallest in the state--again shining down upon the populist martyr's huge statue. Every now and then, the state tightened its purse strings and decided to turn the spotlight off to save a few dollars, but they always turned it back on again. Tourists still came to see old Huey out there, pigeons and all. Working your way through school as a guard at the state capitol wasn't the best job in the world, but it left plenty of time to study, that was the main thing-- Her com buzzed. She grinned again and pulled the tiny unit from her belt. She knew who it was. Nobody else would be calling at this hour. "Hey," she said. "Hey, Kat," her husband said. "How come you're still awake?" Kat asked. "You'll never make Lard Ass's class." "Piss on him. I miss you. All alone here in this big, old bed. Naked under the covers. Full of lust for my new wife." Kat laughed. "You all talk, goat-boy. If I came home right now, you'd whine about how you had to get some sleep." "No, ma'am. You come home and I'll show you. I have a big surprise for you." "Not so big as all that, honey chile. I'd say it was just an ... average surprise." "How would you know? Come on home and see. I've been lifting weights." She laughed. "I am tempted--" she began. She never finished the sentence. The compression shock wave blasted her so hard that if the investigators hadn't known who she was, they would never have been able to identify her, not even using dental records. When the various agencies finished combing the rubble--city and state police, fire department, ATF, FBI--they found in the bloody mush that had been Kat Brant only eight of her teeth still intact, none of which had ever been touched by a dentist's laser. The only blessing was that she did not suffer. She never knew what hit her. 1 Friday, December 17th, 12:55 p.m. Quantico, Virginia Alexander Michaels, Commander of the FBI's elite Net Force unit, fell on the floor, smack onto his butt. He hit harder than he expected; it knocked the wind out of him. Fortunately, the cheek that took most of the impact was the left one, and not the right where, two months ago, a bullet had exited after he'd been shot in the thigh. The wound was pretty much healed; it only twinged now and then. The woman who had just slammed him to the floor was his chief deputy, Assistant Commander Antonella "Toni" Fiorella--all five feet five inches, one hundred and maybe ten pounds of her. Before he could even try to recover his breath, Toni dropped to one knee next to him and threw a short right elbow at his face, slapping it with her left hand for emphasis--and to move her left hand into position for a follow-up wipe, did she deem it necessary. It wasn't going to be necessary. Michaels had no plans to punch her. He could barely breathe. Smiling took everything he had. Toni offered Michaels a hand, and he took it. She stood and helped him do the same. "You okay?" He managed to suck in enough air to say, "Yeah, fine." Holding the smile was one of the hardest things he'd done in a while, but he held it. "Good. You see what I did?" "I think so." Generally, they practiced such takedowns on the nice, padded mat thoughtfully provided here by the FBI in the smaller of the two gyms in Net Force HQ. Now and again, however, they stepped off the mats onto the floor. Toni, who had been practicing this esoteric martial art since she was twelve, had explained why such training was necessary. "If you practice on the mats all the time, you get used to that cushion. If you fall on the street or a sidewalk, it won't be quite so easy. And since a lot of fights end up on the ground, you need to know how it feels." Yeah. Right. He could understand it, though he wasn't sure he was going to ever learn the stuff so well he could hit the concrete and bounce like a rubber ball. But after a month of training five days a week, at least Michaels could finally get the name of the system right: Pukulan Pentjak Silat . Or silat , for short. It was, Toni had told him, a slimmed-down and simplified version of a more complex art that had come out of the Indonesian jungles less than a century ago. She had learned it from an old Dutch-Indonesian woman who'd lived across the street from the Fiorellas in the Bronx, after she had witnessed the old woman use the art against four gangbangers who had tried to run the granny off her door stoop. A big mistake, that. Michaels had been impressed with what he'd seen Toni do. If this was the simple and easier stuff, he could wait on the really nasty moves. "Okay, you try," she said. "You gonna punch left or right?" he asked. "Doesn't matter," she said. "If you control the center like you're supposed to, it'll work either way." "In theory," he said. She smiled at him. "In theory." He nodded, then tried to relax and assume a neutral stance. That was supposed to be part of it too, Toni had said. It ought to work from whichever position you happened to be in if an attacker jumped you; otherwise--what was the point? You wouldn't have time to bow and get into your ready stance if the street thug decided to eat your lunch. It wasn't real likely a guy in an alley coming at you with a knife was going to allow you to run home to take off your shoes and put on your gi while he stood there waiting, maybe cleaning his nails with his blade. If a move wasn't practical, the Indonesian fighters didn't much like to pass it along. This wasn't a do, a spiritual "way." It was the distilled essence of anything-goes street-fighting. It was not an art of flashy, fancy moves, but an art of war. In silat, you didn't merely defeat an enemy, you destroyed him, and you used whatever you had at hand to do it: fists, feet, elbows, knives, clubs, guns-- Toni leaped at him. You were supposed to block first, then step, and this defense was supposed to be a move to the outside of the attacker. Instead, Michaels, rattled, blocked and stepped to the inside of Toni's leading foot. In theory, as she'd said, it didn't matter, since anything that worked was the point. His right thigh slid between Toni's legs and pressed against her pubis. His concentration on protecting himself just kind of... evaporated. He'd blocked the punch, but now he just stood there. He didn't follow up. He was very much aware of the warmth of her crotch astraddle his thigh, even through two sets of sweatpants. Damn! "Alex?" "Sorry, I drew a blank." Quickly, Michaels stepped back. He'd nearly been killed by that assassin a couple of months ago; if it hadn't been for Toni, the killer would have gotten him, and it had seemed a good idea to learn more about how to protect himself, but right now this intimate martial contact with Toni might be bringing up more problems than it solved. It certainly was bringing up one problem in particular he could do without-- "Hey, Boss?" Michaels shook off the erotic thoughts. Jay Gridley stood near the gym's entrance, looking at the two of them. The younger man was grinning. "Jay. What's up?" "You said you wanted to hear about that Louisiana thing as soon as it came in. I just downloaded the packet from the field team in Baton Rouge, got vid and reports. It's flagged in your incoming files." Michaels nodded. "Thanks, Jay." He looked at Toni. "I need to check that out." "We can pick up where we left off Monday," she said. "Unless you're working tomorrow?" "I wish. I was hoping to work on the car, but I've got to bone up on financial stuff. I'm supposed to appear before Senator White's committee on Tuesday." "You get all the fun," Toni said. "Don't I just?" They bowed to each other, the intricate silat beginning and ending salute, and Michaels headed for the dressing room.   Sheldon Gaynel Worsham was sixteen years old, a student at New Istrouma High School. He looked about twelve, was thin, and had black, oily hair slicked down all over, save for a wavy lock that dangled greasily over his left eye. He wore blue parachute pants and a black T-shirt with a putrid-green pulse-paint logo. The logo was a stylized badge with the word "GeeterBeeter" in jagged letters across it. Whatever that meant. The kid slouched in a cheap chair next to a heavy castplast table that was scratched and battered by years of abuse. Somebody had carved a heart with initials inside it on one corner, something of a surprise, since this was obviously a room where knives or other sharp objects were generally forbidden. The man seated across the table from Worsham was heavyset, florid-faced, in a cheap, dark business suit, and he might as well have had "cop" flashing in neon over his head. "So tell me about this bomb," the cop said. Worsham nodded. "Yeah, okay, okay. So we're not talking semtex or C4 or crap like that, we're talking RQX-71, a top-secret chemical used in conventional missile warheads. It's an analog of some old stuff called PBX-9501. You want to know about anisotropic elastics or isotropic polymerics? Expansion rates or like that?" "Why don't we just skip over that for now," the cop said. "Where did you get it, this explosive?" The kid grinned. "I made it in the chem lab. Swiped a keycard from the janitor's desk and duped it, got the alarm codes, snuck in at night. Only took a week. Got a little tricky at one point, I thought I was gonna blow myself up, but it worked out okay." "You made it. And took down a brand-new, three-story, steel-framed addition to the capitol with it." The kid grinned wider. "Yeah. Something, huh?" Worsham sat up straighter in the plastic chair. "And that blast killed a woman guard working her way through college." "Yeah, well, I'm sorry about that part, but it's not really my fault. The coozers shouldn't have fired my dad, you pross?" "Your father worked on the construction of the building." "Until the stupid coozers fired him, yeah. I wanted to make a point, you pross?" The cop nodded. "I guess you did that." He shifted in his chair. The thin plastic squeaked in protest. "And how did you happen to come up with the top-secret formula for this--RAQ?" "RQX-71." Now the kid favored the cop with his biggest grin yet. "That was the easy part. I scarfed it off the net."   Michaels leaned back in the conference room chair and glanced at Toni and Jay Gridley. Gridley touched a control and the holoproj of the interrogation faded. "Full of remorse about killing that young woman, isn't he?" Michaels said. "Kids don't relate to death," Jay said. "Too much entcom, too many vids, too much VR slaughter-rooming." Toni said, "And the formula?" "Just like the little bastard said," Jay said. "Right in the middle of a public net room. We pulled it as soon as we found it, but it was posted anonymously. We're trying to backwalk it, but it looks like it came from a recaster somewhere." "Who would do such a thing? Why?" Toni said. "And how did they get the formula to do it?" Michaels added. Jay shrugged. He tapped at the portable and the image of the destroyed building shimmered and came up on the holoproj. It basically looked like a pile of concrete and metal rubble, beams sticking out, shards of glass glittering under the searchlights, and smoke still coming from sections of it. "Jesus," Toni said. "Yeah," Michaels said. "Only this one is in our lap and not His. We've got to find whoever is responsible for putting this formula onto the net where our sociopathic teener could find it." "According to the counter, there were more than nine hundred hits on that file before we cleaned it off," Jay said. "We better hope nobody else who downloaded that formula has a grudge against somebody." Michaels shook his head. Nine hundred hits. Nine hundred chances for someone to try to concoct this stuff. Nine hundred chances for someone to succeed, and take out a building like that Worsham kid or--and this was maybe even worse-blow themselves and a whole school full of kids up in the process. What kind of scum would do something like this? The Worsham boy was obviously bent, missing a few key neurons in his brain, but whoever posted the formula for the explosive was really sick. They needed to find him fast. And Christmas was also fast approaching. The holidays would slow things around here to a crawl, and he had to go back to Idaho to see his daughter, Susie. And his ex-wife, Megan, too. A prospect that brought forth mixed emotions in Michaels, to be sure. At eight, Susie was the brightest spot in his life, but it was a long way from Washington, D.C., to Boise, and he didn't see her nearly as much as he wanted to. And Megan? Well, that was another whole can of worms that didn't bear opening just at this moment. The divorce had been final for more than a year, and if she called and asked him to come home right now ... Up until recently, there hadn't been any question, he'd go. But the torch he'd been carrying had dimmed a little when he'd found out Megan was dating somebody. Being with another man. Enjoying it. "Alex?" He looked at Toni. "Sorry, I slipped into the void. What?" "Joanna Winthrop is coming in at two-thirty." Gridley snorted. "Lightweight Lite? What's she want?" "Lieutenant Winthrop is going to be assisting us on this matter," Michaels said. "Colonel Howard has graciously allowed us to borrow her from the field. In fact, she will be working with you." "What? I don't need her, Boss." Jay said. "I can run this dweebo to ground without some airhead sim-bimbo--" "Jay." Michaels's tone was sharp. "Sorry, Boss. But she's only gonna get in the way." "As I recall, her grade-point average was higher than yours straight across the board," Toni said. "Sure, where she went to school." "MIT, wasn't it?" "Yes, ma'am, but their standards have gone way down. CIT is acme now." Alex just shook his head and said, "Jay, whatever your differences with Lieutenant Winthrop, you'll just have to find a way to get past them. We need all the help we can get on this mess." He waved at the holoproj. Gridley nodded, but his jaw muscles flexed as he gritted his teeth. Great, Michaels thought, one more brick on the load I don't need. A computer prima donna jealous of his territory. Just great. His temporary secretary came into the conference room. "Commander, I have Director Carver on the phone." Michaels stood. "I'll take it in my office." He waved at Jay and Toni. "Get busy, folks." 2 Friday, December 17th, 1:45 p.m. Washington, D.C. Thomas Hughes strode into the senatorial offices as if he owned them, the building they were in, and the city around them. He waved at the receptionist. "Bertha. Is he alone?" "Yes, sir, Mr. Hughes." Hughes nodded. He'd known Bertha for more than a dozen years. She'd been with Bob since his first term, but she still called him "Mr. Hughes," and he had not encouraged otherwise. He walked to the inner office door, rapped once, and pushed it open in the same motion. Jason Robert White, fifty-six, the senior United States senator from the great state of Ohio, sat at his desk. He was playing a computer game. He looked up and started to frown at the interruption before he realized who had dared barge in. "Hey, Tom." White did a fingerwave over the sensor on his handpad and the small-scale holoproj images froze. It looked like two guys in hand-to-hand combat, one of whom was green and scaly. Jesus. "Bob. How'd the lunch with Hicks go?" Hughes moved to the pale gray leather couch, sat, and looked at the man for whom he worked. White appeared ten years younger than his actual age, with a deep chemical tan under his perfectly styled, artfully graying hair. He wore a dark-blue tailored Saigon suit, a pastel-pink silk shirt, and a striped regimental tie for a regiment that had never existed. Hughes couldn't see his feet, but the shoes were doubtless Italian or Australian, and handmade. Altogether, the outfit the senator wore offhandedly was worth what Hughes made in salary each month, easy. He was the image of a successful senator, handsome, fit, and comfortable in his custom clothes, no doubt about it. He could play a Viennese waltz on the piano, speak passable French and German, keep up with a so-so tennis pro, and break a hundred on a bad day at the country club golf course. A man who could walk the corridors of international power with ease. Hughes, on the other hand, knew he looked every day of his fifty-two years. He was twenty pounds too heavy, wore a decent, but not expensive, Harris Tweed sport coat and gray wool slacks from Nordstrom, both off the rack, and his shoes were Nike dress casuals. Total cost of his outfit was maybe a twentieth that of White's. White leaned back in his chair and waggled his left hand in a so-so gesture. "Well, Tom, you know Hicks. He never gives a nickel but what he wants a dime. If we want to get his support, the honorable senator from Florida wants to see the Naval Air Station remain a fixture in Pensacola from now until the end of time." Hughes nodded. He had expected no less. "Fine. Give him what he wants. What do we care? He's a critical vote. We get him, we'll get Boudreaux and Mullins. We get them, we're out of committee and it's a lock on the floor." White smiled at his chief of staff. "Probably won't hurt us with Admiral Pierce either." "Exactly." Hughes glanced at his watch, a gold Rolex that White had given him on the eve of their election to the Senate. Hughes had been the campaign manager, and such a watch was way beyond anything he'd ever been able to afford. For White, whose family owned half of Ohio and part of Indiana, a Rolex was a trinket, a drop from a bucket brimming with money. It was the most expensive piece of jewelry that Hughes ever wore, and though he could afford better now, he couldn't afford it legally. "Aren't you supposed to be on the links with Ralcigh at two-fifteen?" he reminded White. "The old man canceled. Too cold for him. Personally, I think he just doesn't want me to kick his ass again. Last time out, I beat him by nine strokes. We're doing drinks at the Benson instead, two-thirty." "Good. Remember, let him bring up the Stoddard thing. Play it cool, let him court you. He doesn't need to know you want it more than he does." "I will be an iceberg," White said. He waved at the computer projection frozen over his workstation. "You ever play DinoWarz?" "I can't say as I have, no." "Very stimulating mano-a-mano combat scenario. There's a full VR version that puts you right in the middle of the action. Some junior high school kid built it and put it on the net. Fun. You should try it sometime." Hughes smiled and tried not to show the contempt he felt. White was rich, the son, grandson, and great-grandson of wealthy men. It wasn't just a silver spoon he'd been born with, but a platinum one encrusted with diamonds. If he'd wanted to, White could have blown a million dollars a year for his entire life and never depicted his share of the family fortune. He wasn't a total fool, but he was a dilettante, a dabbler; the office was for him an adult version of DinoWarz, and Hughes believed it meant about as much. White thought being a United States senator was ... fun. "One other thing," Hughes said. "That bombing in Louisiana." Excerpted from Hidden Agendas by Tom Clancy, Steve Pieczenik All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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