Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

zer0es

The basics

Title: Zer0es

Author:

Series: Zer0es #1

- Zer0es (August 2015)
- Invasive (August 2016)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as "the Lodge," where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves "the Zeroes."

But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist's head spin. And soon they're not just trying to serve their time, they're also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they'll get out alive.

In short

5 hackers are made to work for the government. They are sent to a secret location without any contact to the outside world and without knowing what they work on. As the hackers that they are, they try to find out what is going on and learn about Typhon, an artificial intelligence. When everyone at the base is killed the Zer0es flee and get to a secret location, to one of Wade’s old friends, always being followed by the Compiler, a guy connected to Typhon. After having a break for a few months, they are found again and decide to go against Typhon. They find out about Typhon’s location and go after it. They are able to shut it down and keep it on their own HD.

What went down

  • Chance outed a rapist at his school and gets beaten up for it. When trying to hack into the guy’s mother’s FB account to cause more trouble, he gets busted by “Mr. Government”
  • DeAndre Mitchel makes money by downloading credit card numbers at gas stations and selling them. From the money he buys his mum a fancy house where he is promptly arrested by Hollis Copper
  • Aleena is a hacktiwist who spreads government information via social media. Hollis Copper comes after her at work
  • Reagon Stolper is first surprised by a man in the backseat of her car and she flees. When he also shows up at her house she willingly goes with him
  • Wade Earthman, the old-school cypherpunk, is caught in his secret bunker
  • They are all brought to a secret location where they are forced into agreeing to work with the government for one year
  • Hollis was instructed by Golathan, a NSA administrator, to get the five and isn’t amused when he finds out that he is now assigned as their babysitter
  • The five are drugged and brought to “The Hunter Lodge” another secret location. They meet each other for the first time and get along splendidly, not.
  • Over breakfast they decided to call their little group “Zer0es”
  • The next day they have a Penetration test to determine their skills. Chance is seriously scared because he is way out of his league. Reagon pretends to help him during the test but actually gets him into trouble. She teamed up with Graves, a hacker legend, who fears Chance might become more famous than him
  • Aleena gets a message from “the Widow”, another hacker, asking “Who is Typhon?”
  • Graves wants Raegon to set Chance up by putting a USB stick into his pocket that contains data for which he will get in trouble but Reagon sets Graves up instead.
  • After a month of tests they are to work in a team. They start to make plans to escape by getting data they can use as leverage. During a team session they hack what’s being kept secret and find a list of famous people who are missing or dead
  • Hollis Copper finds footprints and follows them to a cave where the message “Typhon stirs” is left in blood
  • The Zer0es suspect that Typhon is an artificial intelligence and that their task is to take out competing systems
  • Meanwhile Typhon is “free” and spreads like a virus
  • Suddenly the Zer0es are looked in and everyone else gets shot by the soldiers
  • Chance gets asked to work for the woman who created Typhon but declines
  • When the doors open for them again, the Zer0es get a car and flee. The are followed by the Compiler, who is connected to and controlled by Typhon. Wade is able to shoot him but Typhon takes over their car and they crash but are able to flee.
  • They visit one of Wade’s old buddies but Typhon finds out where they are and the Compiler comes after them again. They flee to another of Wade’s old friends, Rosa
  • Golathan meets Leslie, Typhon’s creator, and finds out that the missing people are connected to Typhon to provide a natural intelligence and he becomes the next one on the list

How did it end?

  • Months later, Typhon causes a plane to crash and the Zer0es are made responsible. Their pictures show up on TV and not only the Compiler but also Hollis is able to find them again. Just when Hollis arrives at their place, the Compiler attacks.
  • They are able to shoot the Compile, again, and find out about a plug in his head. They talk in front of him about where they are going next but lie about it so that Typhon has false information. The Zer0es leave the Complier behind but he is healed yet again by some weird spheres
  • Chance, Aleena and Wade go to Manhattan where they suspect Typhon’s main system while DeAndre, Reagon and Hollis go to West Virginia to a farmhouse where another system connected to Typhon is.
  • At the farmhouse, the Compiler shows up with Reagon’s daughter so that she gives up and is plugged into Typhon too. She is able to resist though and immobilizes everyone who is connected and attacking them. DeAndre is able to get into the system and find out the exact location of Typhon
  • Aleena gets the Widow to help them. The Widow causes a power outage so that they get into the city unnoticed. With the help of DeAndre they get into the building where Typhon is.
  • Typhon has their relatives and Wade is ready to give up for his daughter. Aleena is plugged in too by Shane who Chance then tries to kill. Only by turning up the heat in the building are they able to get Typhon to back up. Typhon starts to flee to a backup location but DeAndre catches her on his own hard-drive.
  • 6 months later, the now unplugged people are still not okay and in a dream-like state. Leslie is brain dead.The Zer0es are cleared of all their wrong doings and their lives turn back to normal.
  • Chance is caught and held by 3 Chinese men, a possible set up by the Widow. They question him about Typhon and how they stopped it. With the help of the Widow he is able to flee though and he gets picked up by his crew in a helicopter. He leaves the Widow their phones as payment for her help.

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