He was not a millionaire and not able to just live his life as a Privatier. He did have to work for a living, and he worked hard when he had a gig. After he had been forced out of the last company he had co-founded, he had lost most of his money. To feed his family, he fell back to freelancing as a digital security consultant. He worked mostly for large corporate clients or clients with especially sensitive information like high-tech product designs, formulas for new drugs, or financial data. Rarely he also took work from government or semi-public organizations.
He was not a hacker, but he could build a specialist team of data security engineers within two weeks and get them to work efficiently on a specific client project. He was the conduit between the business problem and the technical solution.
He was reasonably fit for his thirty-eight years. At six-three and 223 pounds he had gotten slightly puffy, but he could still do twenty push-ups pretty easily and swim one thousand meters in under twenty-four minutes. For him, the German Swimming Federation’s minimum standard for amateur competitions was the gold standard for personal fitness. His black hair had grayed at the sides, but if you asked him, he did not feel any different than he did at age twenty-eight.
“I’m home,” Ofelia called into the corridor of their two-bedroom condominium. The slim five-foot-five brunette kicked off her high heels. After ten hours of work and a short commute by car she still looked sharp in the black, creased trousers and the sleeveless, striped top.
“Ugh, I remember the smell when the wind came from Bytom,” Ofelia started a tale from her childhood in Silesia.
Mark loved hearing those stories. While they were only three years apart in age, her childhood behind the Iron Curtain was in some ways similar and in other ways very different from Mark’s.
Alexander ‘Xandi’ Sanders
His red-and-white striped onesie made Alexander look like Waldo without the glasses. It had even come with a matching hat which Xandi had always wiggled out of the first chance he would get. Over time, the cute hat got lost somewhere and would probably show up during the first renovation of the room in five years or so. Ofelia stroked her son’s forehead lightly and smiled like only a mother can. The boy fell asleep quickly. For a ten-month-old he was sleeping a lot.
Svetlana Ivanovna Belyakova, aka ‘Mlada’
Mark’s team had been working hard to pin down the attack on a known hacker. The elegance of the intrusion and the near lack of remaining evidence had amazed the experienced crew. The whole thing took time.
While his team in Berlin was looking for the intruder in the depths of cyberspace, the hacker had walked up to Mark’s table with two mojito’s in her hands.
He had looked at that perfectly symmetric face a million times before, often enough marveling at the full lips, the high cheekbones, the thin, completely straight nose, and the bright-blue eyes. Her long, jet-black hair was tied into a very tight ponytail sitting high on the back of her head. She wore a very tight, low-cut, black top. Her round, firm breasts touched each other lightly forming a cleavage to die for. There was a tiny black beauty mark on her left breast. She was stunningly beautiful.