Louis Weld had been appointed CIA director less than a year previous, and already he was making quite an impression. All of the weekly news magazines featured quotes by Weld on a regular basis. Unlike past CIA directors, Weld maintained a very high profile and was quite outspoken about seemingly everything. I liked what I read about him. He was investing a lot of time and effort into re-tooling the CIA to accommodate the changing geopolitical scene following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The room slowly filled, and as it did so, the buzz of the semi-hushed conversations increased. Jonny reappeared with a young man at his side. He introduced him to Lisa and I as Danial Smith, a computer operator at an X9.17 Key Translation Center managed by Chase-Manhattan. Jonny explained that a few of the Key Center operators had been invited to the meeting to provide any insights they might have from their perspective in the trenches of electronic banking. They, better than anybody else, understood the practicalities governing any effort to mount a counter-offensive against the millwright.
Danial Smith was young. He could not have been older than twenty-five. He was red-haired and had extremely fair skin. His face was lightly freckled. He appeared to be out of his element in his brown tweed suit and red tie. I was sure he did not normally wear a suit to work.
“Danial generally agrees with the technicians at Bendix,” Jonny said pointedly.
“Something like this was bound to happen sooner or later,” Danial said. When he spoke, he sounded even younger than he appeared. He had a high-pitched voice and a slight lisp in his speech.
“Maybe it has already happened a few times in the past…” said Jonny. He let the comment trail off and nobody replied immediately. He had a point; would any of us have heard about it if something like the money mill had happened before? Perhaps Jonny actually did have knowledge of a similar incident, but was barred from mentioning it.
“What do you do exactly?” Lisa asked Danial.
“I run the key translation service. Mostly that means that I make sure the machines stay running… lots of systems administration work.”
“What Operating System?” she asked.
“Mostly Unix. We still do a little bit of work on mainframes. What Operating Systems do you use Ms. Cryer? Agent Carter tells me you are a programmer.”
“Yes, that’s right. I’ve worked some with Unix but most of my work is on Mac’s. I prefer developing for the Mac, but that might be because the applications tend to be more fun. I try to stay objective about such things.”
“In our business? Good luck. I haven’t met anybody that has a balanced and objective position when it comes to Operating Systems or programming languages,” laughed Danial. He dug his hands into his pockets. His hands were balled into fists. He appeared nervous for some reason. “Most of my programming is in Perl and other scripting languages,” Danial offered, “what about you?”.
“Mostly Smalltalk, but it looks like we will be switching over to Java soon,” she replied. “The company that I work for makes educational applications for toddlers and preschoolers. Our original system, which is starting to show its age at this point, was implemented entirely in Smalltalk. Our next product is going to be web-based… hence the switch to Java.”
As he and Lisa continued to exchange computer science banter, I looked around the room again. This was America’s banking and cryptographic brain-trust that was being assembled. Would they be able to devise a solution to our predicament? News of my X9.17 discovery had spread quickly. The rapid distribution of the news was the result of Agnes’ hard work. I recalled her initial reaction when Jonny and I told her the news. Jonny had forced her to cancel a meeting already in progress so that she could hear my story. The cold glare of disapproval that Agnes had directed toward Jonny had slowly given way to a look of bafflement at first and then, as comprehension began to settle in, her attitude changed to one of excitement and enthusiasm.