“And a hacker caused this? How could that have happened?”

“Unfortunately, some of our personnel bring in their personal devices, phones, iPads, and on their computers here there is occasional breach of protocol as people log on to outside networks. It’s not supposed to happen, but people are people.”

“Leaving a way for a hacker to get in and rewrite your code so the cell doors opened when the power failed.”


“Any leads there?”


“But you’ve confirmed the hack occurred?”

“Technically, that is still speculation, but I see no other way for it to have happened.”

Puller thought, Oh, I see at least one other way it could have gone down. “I’ll need to see all the footage you have,” he said.

Her lips pursed once more. “I can arrange that as well.”

“And the MP reinforcements from Leavenworth? I’ll need to talk to the people involved in that.”

She gave a curt nod.

“Just to be clear, are you sure you haven’t for

med any theories, Captain, as to what happened?”

“No, I have not.”

“Not even any hunches?”

“I don’t like hunches, Mr. Puller. They often lead to mistakes. And mistakes often lead to the end of military careers.”

“Well, I’ll let you get on with your career, then, as soon as you make the arrangements we just discussed.”

Macri gazed at him intently and then picked up her desk phone.



AN HOUR LATER Puller was leaning against a fifty-gallon oil drum in a workshop facility near the DB. The man he was talking to, Al Jordan, had been the crew chief for the group that had repaired the blown transformers. He was in his early fifties, with pewter gray hair and a barrel chest set atop skinny legs.

“So it was definitely the storm that fried the transformers?”

Jordan wiped his hands on a rag and then lifted his cap and wiped sweat from his brow. “That’s sure what it looked like to me. The two transformers were part of a small substation. Encircled by a chain-link fence that was locked. The station had lots of safety devices built in, but that storm had enough power to do just about anything it wanted to. You can’t trump Mother Nature.”

“And the transformers were connected to DB?” asked Puller.

“Yep. Along with other facilities around here. We got them back up and running as fast as we could. We didn’t even wait for the storm to stop.”

Puller understood this. The military was mission first, not safety first.

“So anything unusual you might have noticed?”

Jordan considered this. “I can’t say that there was. Those transformers just blew. Probably hit by the lightning. They were all burned up.”

“Isn’t it unusual that they both blew?”

“Well, they’re connected. One gets hit, there’s gonna be an effect on the other as well. Too much juice, anything can happen.”

“You said they had lots of safety devices built in. Don’t they ground them?”

“Yes, in addition to other protections like an arrestor for secondary induced surges, but none of them are perfect. You get a direct hit with enough power I don’t care what you’ve done to avoid damage. That sucker is going. A lightning bolt can carry one hundred and twenty million volts or more. You slam that into a transformer in a millisecond, well, can you say ‘boom’?”

“So, like an explosion?”

“Very much like one.”

“Could it have been a bomb?”

Jordan looked at him in surprise. “A bomb? In a transformer?”

“Yes. It could have taken out both transformers.”

“What, to knock power out to the prison, you mean?”


“But they got backups,” protested Jordan.

“They failed too. And a prisoner escaped. Which is the only reason I’m here.”

Jordan scratched his cheek. “I don’t know if it was a bomb. I guess people who know bombs can check it out.”

“Have they?”

“Don’t know.”

“You talked to anyone else who’s investigating this?”

“I have. They asked the same sort of questions you did.”

“But not about a possible bomb?”

“What makes you say that?” Jordan asked suspiciously.

“Well, you were surprised when I asked you about the possibility of a bomb. If they had asked you as well, I don’t think you would have been surprised when I did.”

“Oh, right. Well, they didn’t ask about a bomb, as a matter of fact.”

“Where are the transformers that blew?”

“They took them away.”

“Who took them away?”

Jordan shifted his stance a bit. “Some people.”

“Those people have names or credentials?”

“They outranked me. That’s all that mattered.”

“So no names?” Puller persisted. “No releases signed? You had to cover your butt somehow.”

Jordan shrugged. “I just took it on faith, I guess.”

Puller gave the man an incredulous look. “Then you should reconsider your faith.”

The next stop for Puller was the backup generator. It was housed in a concrete bunker about a hundred yards to the rear of the DB. The gas lines powering it ran underground. The bunker was also partially underground and surrounded by a ten-foot-high fence topped with concertina wire. There was a guard stationed there. Puller had called ahead and two men were waiting for him.

He climbed out of his car and approached. They were in uniform and carried the ranks of E-4 specialists. With their glasses and scrawny builds they looked to him like nerds playing soldier. He gave a detailed explanation of why he was there, and they led him into the bunker and down a short flight of stairs until they arrived at three mammoth generators.

“I thought there’d only be one of them,” said Puller.

“The electrical load requirement for DB is very substantial,” said one of the E-4s. “These generators are run in parallel but with sophisticated control features. It’ll provide the load required but not more, so the waste is minimal.”

“What was the cause of the failure?” asked Puller.

One specialist looked at the other, who cleared his throat. “It was a fuel problem.”

“Fuel? I thought the fuel it ran on was natural gas.”

“These are bi-fuel systems,” said the other E-4. “Natural gas and diesel.”

“Why two fuels?”

“Natural gas puts us at the control of the utility. Army doesn’t like that. Something happens to the gas flow, we’re shit out of luck. The way the system works, the main power fails, the diesel fuel component to the generator comes on and runs the system initially. Then the natural gas feed will be introduced by the system’s controller into the fuel mix after certain criteria are satisfied—the requisite electrical load acceptance, for example. The diesel also serves as the pilot light for the natural gas, which has an ignition temperature of about twelve hundred degrees Fahrenheit. That way if the natural gas flow is interrupted we have on-site fuel under our control. The system will

Tags: David Baldacci John Puller Thriller
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