Home > King of Code

King of Code
Author: C.D. Reiss

AUTHOR’S NOTE

 

 

Though there are a few towns called Barrington in the United States, my Barrington is a made-up place. The lack of state or geography is intentional. Barrington is everywhere in America—and nowhere specific. The troubles there reflect small-town concerns many communities share, and it’s going to take me a few books to unpack it all.

To that end, I tried to strip the residents’ dialect of a specific region, but one might show up. That’s unintended.

I want to tell the story of your town, no matter what town or city you call home.

Though I’d love to assure you that I was successful in this (or any) endeavor, I have no way of knowing until it’s too late.

I hope you enjoy the book—wherever you’re from.

 

 

I

 

 

Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Jeff Bezos.

Kings. Emperors. Rulers of kingdoms they built with their own hands. Their own sweat. Nobodies who clawed their way to the top with sheer grit.

Everett Fitzgerald. Even my buddy Fitz is a king.

Rockefeller. Carnegie. Ford. Vanderbilt.

They changed the world.

I’m about to become one of those guys.

Decades from now, they’re going to talk about what I’m about to release into the world. Where I thought of it. What I ate for breakfast. How I got here. I worked harder, thought bigger, drilled deeper. I changed myself from the inside out to get here.

Today, I am granted meetings with kings.

In thirteen days I, Taylor Harden, become a king of kings.

 

 

II

 

 

There’s going to come a day I don’t have to fuck in the supply closet.

One leg over my shoulder, the other dropping off the side of the table, naked enough to get the job done, but clothed enough for waistbands and shirttails to get in the way. I hadn’t fucked in a bed in four years. I didn’t see my apartment for weeks at a time. I’d showered at the gym until we bought the QI4HQ and warehouse, then I put a shower stall in my office.

“Harder,” she grunted in the dark. “Fuck me harder.”

I gave it to her. A stream of filth left her lips, and I parried with more until we were both reduced to syllables. Then, nothing but the need to get back to work.

We rustled our clothing back on.

“Did you set up the cage?” I tucked in my shirt.

“We made it presentable last night. Jack needed to clean his shit.”

Jack. I loved him like a brother, and he could cut code like a motherfucker, but he’d left a Tech World packing slip on his desk when the NY Times had done their profile on me. The photo Greeked when it was enlarged. Lucky him.

“Raven, I don’t want a repeat of—”

“There’s not going to be—”

“I mean it.”

“Taylor.” Her voice had moved to the door. “Everything’s going to be perfect this time. I promise.”

She opened the door before I could remind her that I was the one who decided what was perfect and what sucked.

 

 

III

 

 

“Why four?” Keaton had asked in my studio, years before. His English accent made him sound perpetually disgusted by my arrangements, but he’d insisted on seeing the shithole I lived in so he could feel sorry for me. I’d gone white hat and starved while he’d stayed black hat and thrived. His shirt cost more than my rent.

“Why four what?” I sat in the desk chair in front of my machine. It was the only other chair besides the one he’d bent his six foot four inches onto. He took up half the damn apartment.

“You’re naming the company QI4. Q is quantum. I is intelligence. Why four?”

“I liked the way it sounded.”

He finished his beer and got up to put his bottle in the recycling. He did it slowly, as if he wanted to fuck with me. He’d been an asshole since high school. Keaton Bridge, aka 41ph4 W01ph (Alpha Wolf if you don’t speak l33t), had taught me the art of the dark web, where identities, guns, and drugs were traded in glorious, unindexed chaos.

“Seventy million,” he said.

I was glad I hadn’t dressed up to meet him because I almost pissed myself.

“But…” He trailed off intentionally for effect.

“But?”

He leaned his ass on the kitchenette counter and folded his arms. “You clean your ass up. You look like a bloody slob.”

I ran my fingers through my hair. I hadn’t had it cut in months. It was straight-ish when short, but when it got below my ears, it started curling. My beard was short, and my skin was olive but sallow from lack of sun. I’d lost weight, missed the gym for forever, my clothes hung off me.

“At least I don’t look like a politician.”

“Seventy million,” he repeated, reminding me I was in no position to insult his suit. “In Bitcoin.”

Oh, fuck him. He couldn’t pay me in an underground, digital currency to finance my above-board venture.

“Dude. Come on. How am I going to exchange that?”

“Dude,” he mocked me flatly. “I’ll help you.”

“I’ll never get a government contract.”

“We will. It’ll just take time.”

“We?”

“I’m tired of living in the shadows.”

“Whoa, whoa, I said ‘silent partner.’ I don’t need someone coming in, telling me what to do. Not even… before you even say it… not even the ‘Devil of the Dark Web’ or, no, especially not the devil.”

“You’ll have control, Taylor. It’s all you. I’ll never even show up at the office. But my investment will essentially reveal Alpha Wolf’s identity, which will serve my purposes and clear the way for the exchange.”

I tilted my head right then left as if I was letting resistance drop out of my ears. It was a moment to breathe. I’d expected worse when I asked him for seed money. I’d figured he’d drop a couple hundred grand I could tuck away in expenses while I tried to line up real capital.

Now he wanted to be the capital. Talk about a gift horse. I was looking right in its mouth and wheeling it into the gates anyway.

 

* * *

 

My phone had encrypted channels with all my primary contacts, including Keaton. As I was walking out of the hall closet after Raven, it rattled as he messaged me.

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