At first, it seemed confusing- even surreal- to those awake early on the morning of February 1st when it started, when the first emails appeared. Within ten minutes, every inboxes was full. In thirty, computer systems and networks slowed under the onslaught of incoming data. And within the hour, lights filled rooms in homes, angry and anguished conversations erupted behind closed doors, and phones rang on every street across the country.
Between friends, a harbored note of anger, or of depression, or of despair, unfiltered, pregnant with private emotions, past-dated from some sensitive moment in recent years, sprang out of an unknown history to become volcanic.
Between lovers, the inciting communiques, unseen before, were more pointed, more agitated, more misgiven, more frantic, or more intoxicated, creating crises from the uncovering of deep wounds suffered in the recent past.
And if the notes received were from a lover who was not the boyfriend, the girlfriend, the spouse, the mate, they were at first insipidly jarring, until they turned soul-crushing. The sensual invitations, the hushed betrayals, the amorous Hail Mary’s, begging for escapes and intimacies, teasing with promises and pictures. Unsaid things once thought safely recalled and recovered now resurfaced, bearing betrayal.
By 2 AM, the story had broke on national news, detailing damages developing from an IT emergency mushrooming on several levels- data networks nationally and internationally stalling and shutting down due to an unexplainable spike in electronic traffic, a broad swath of suicides and domestic violence incidents and auto accidents reported within the hour, sources identifying government systems as complicit in the explosion of data at midnight.
And then came news of patient record redundancies appearing in the hospital network systems, confounding hospital staffs at the wee hours of the morning, and multiple and differing doctor orders ballooning on day procedure and surgery calendars- before many systems crashed in the deluge.
Mostly unseen for the first few hours of the morning were the billions of trade and payment orders sent and received by financial platforms joining the big banks with corporate clients and the Fed, that, by the time they were discovered, had produced a cataclysm of unfettered transactions that defied the rules of accounting. Historic transactions were resubmitted and repeated as automated exchange systems failed.
And by 6 AM, everything was frozen.
Bank accounts. Airports. Health clinics. Commerce. Cellular networks. National leaders.
When Martin Wyss took ArgoNet public, his revolutionary email software had been pure innovation, and the just money poured in. And his idea had been fairly simple.
ArgoMail was a package of code that was installed as sentinel software on relay servers that could basically locate, intercept and dispose of unreceived and unopened emails and data packages. A unique encryption schema tagged a decease request that ferried from a client’s application to the unopened or unabsorbed packet, knocking it off the network.
Trace stations, easily installed on mail servers across the country, made ArgoMail feasible. Government interest made it possible. As a result of the obscure Bernoulli Act in 2014, a simple but secure function was quietly added into email clients distributed in the United States which let ArgoMail do its magic.
Early in its development, several government agencies had heard about Wyss’s project and contacted him with questions. An undergrad at Carnegie-Mellon at the time, Wyss soon dropped out of college in the middle of his junior year to chase the idea out with a few colleagues from the computer engineering department.
After two years of laborious private development and testing, ArgoMail was finally publicly launched. Initially, the national government deployed ArgoMail software on its servers, and ArgoMail clients ended up on employee computers. In a short time, Fortune 1000 companies followed suit, deploying ArgoMail on their networks, ecstatic at the system’s ability to recall erroneous communication packages. In turn, the financial and medical industries recognized the tool’s power to intercept bad or bogus data issues when paired with safeguard software, and it was rapidly adapted into medical software. In seemingly no time at all, it was in everything.
And within three years, ArgoNet’s IPO netted the company 21.4 billion dollars. Martin and his team were rich, and Wyss became an instant media darling. He was charming, energetic, animated, unflappable, and his youthful luminance captured attention as he filled media requests around the country.
But though his public image glistened, Martin’s private life remained largely a secret.
An only child, Martin had been raised by a working class mother in east Philadelphia, not knowing who his father was until he was a teenager. And it was in his second year of secondary education at Exton’s prestigious Church Farm School, Pennsylvania’s prep school for young men- which was somehow paid for by a mother who worked long hours in the kitchen at Wanamaker’s in downtown Philly- that “the event” happened to him that caused him to leave the school for two weeks, and then leave it for good, and then to miss all high school for a year. It was in that personal blackout that he had also, to his shame, been educated that his father, Alwin Stone, had been a Pennsylvania state representative, who wanted nothing to do with he or his mother.
It was only natural that that season of painful secrets incubated as Martin matured and moved forward.
Sometime about 3:45 AM, a team from the FBI had pieced together the source of the problem: a failure. A software failure. In the system provided by ArgoNet.
By 4:15 AM, a Special Services detail and a team of U.S. Marshalls had converged on the sizable home of Martin Wyss outside of Petaluma, California, initially intent on asking some serious questions. Upon arrival, though, the home was dark and apparently unoccupied, and due to the situation, quickly infiltrated.
Mr. Martin Wyss was not found on the premises, and oddly enough, the home was devoid of electronics equipment- except for a single dead cell phone. In the excessive modern kitchen on the second floor, though, on the massive thin walnut table near the glass walls looking out onto the coast, was a yearbook from Church Farm School, opened to the Students section where a matrix of headshots looked up from the pages.
Except from three square holes in the open pages where photos had been removed.
The first photo had been of Arthur Marks, son of an East Coast land developer, and presently a sitting senator for the state of Vermont.
The second photo had been of Toby S. Wright, son of 3rd District Court Federal Judge Nathan Wright, currently an Associate Director in the National Clandestine Services division of the CIA.
The third photo had been of Harmon A. (“Atlas”) Stone, Princeton University graduate, and bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.