Mark Stenson believes that his coding prowess will provide him with a comfortable, stress-free life with his love, Rachel Philhower. But the money and power of big business and corrupt government agents work to exploit his talent and destroy his core values. A babe-in-the woods in the world of high finance, the temptation to jump into a higher class is at first overwhelming. But Rachel helps him see that the price is too high, that security and peace of mind trump excessiveness. Mark’s genius, it turns out, goes beyond computer programming as he learns to develop a persona of naiveté with regard to playing the high stakes game while skillfully compromising the corruption around him.
The story opens with the about-to-graduate Mark being wooed by a high roller businessman, Hal Henderson, despite the fact that Mark is already committed to work for the Department of Homeland Security. When Henderson discovers how talented Mark is, he offers him an exorbitant amount of money to ditch the government and come to work for him. Mark can’t refuse.
Mark meets with the DOHS to personally inform them that he has taken another position, despite the contract that he signed to join them in exchange for the government paying for the last three years of his education.
The Homeland Security contact, Randal Peabody, at first furious about the breach of contract, softens when he discovers Mark will be working for Henderson Inc., a company they are investigating and would love to have a man on the inside. Mark refuses to “spy” for the government, yet is devastated to learn that the company he is joining is under government investigation.
Despite this, Mark does the cyber security work assigned to him and becomes a trusted employee, even a confidant of Henderson, who asks that he and his fiancé come to a Henderson New Year’s Eve party. Rachel is warmly received by all, but later reveals to Mark that she does not want to “become one of them.”
Given more responsibility at work in a new “Special Opps” position, Mark discovers how to hack any computer system, insert back doors, and access files, all without being detected.
While at a conference of “Suits and Spooks,” Peabody corrals Mark and extorts him to crack into a few companies, including Henderson, Inc., to help a band of rouge DOHS agents steal hundreds of millions of dollars. At stake? The life of Rachel Philhower.
With the agents looking over his shoulder, Mark is able to record audio and video of the ruse and confiscate files from their computer, all of which is turned over to the FBI, with whom Mark had been secretly working.