Ned’s employer was a senate staffer.
Most people called him Tim, but his name was Tymek. His parents saddled him with the traditional Polish variant of Timothy in honor of his grandfather. Tim’s family had been involved in banking and finance. Before the credit crisis, Tim had followed in that tradition, amassing a substantial fortune, though hardly anything like the bigshots. Some of those bigshots lost everything in the credit collapse, and only those who actually ran the system kept their obscene wealth.
Tim escaped with his more modest accounts almost by accident. The craziness during the days leading up to the crisis found him questioning his own purpose in life. In the process of his soul searching, he ran across a virtual community called the Shepherd’s Household. While he never really became that close as a family member, he did absorb the radically different approach to moral questions. Oddly enough, instead of working in finance, he felt he should be working in government. He was especially intrigued with uncovering fraud, and knew plenty about it from his wheeling and dealing in credit and currency swaps. So he just pulled all of his accounts one day and called someone he knew working in government oversight. He parlayed some insider information for a job helping to expose even more. One thing led to another and he ended up as an investigator for the committee that oversaw banking and finance; Tim specialized in keeping an eye on government contracts.
It was through the virtual family that he met Ned. It began mostly with Ned offering to serve as a personal fitness coach. Ned’s hobbies supporting the hackers taught him the value of superior physical fitness and agility. It was all his other talents at snooping that made him even more valuable to Tim. So Tim hired Ned full time as his personal assistant, paying him out of his investment income when he moved all his accounts into various business that seemed to have a future in the chaotic political and economic climate.
Ned had learned to trust Tim and welcomed him as a member of the family. Ned’s own history with the Shepherd family was quite different than most. He was the only one they had who joined early in life. For Ned, it was the best way to combine his Iroquois heritage with modern Western existence. His parents were quite active in keeping alive their native traditions. For Ned, the beliefs of the Shepherd family were substantially consistent with Iroquois mythology. It was the same basic approach in dealing with reality. It also helped him quell the apparent conflict between what the Western world seemed to demand and his burning sense that it was filled with lies and injustice. His grades were high, but it seemed to him the school system was determined to crush his creativity and sense of what was truly just. As an avid Internet user, he had stumbled across the Shepherd’s Household through gaming.
Ned eventually came to terms with the obvious conflict between the burning sense of morals in his heart and the world in which he lived. He became far wiser about not provoking people in authority, but routing around them when possible. His native intelligence led him to understand how to game people without violating his own conscience. And he learned all of this before he graduated public school, largely because he sought the counsel of Shepherd folks who had all been through the same stuff, and encouraged him to stay at it.
Both Ned and Tim shared the same passion for justice, with the sober reality of just how much and what kind of justice was possible in the current political context. It was a friendly conspiracy to infiltrate the system to answer their sense of calling. The bond was rather like an uncle and his favorite nephew, along with genuine friendship, keeping each other sane.
So Ned was coming home to a building his boss owned, to a free apartment in the basement, next door to the computer server room that Ned maintained with the help of his self-programming AI to provide networking for the numerous client businesses leasing space upstairs. This provided Ned with a maintenance badge to come and go at will. There were eight different entrances. Three were guarded and easily found; two more required access codes. The other three were a simple matter of accessing some other secured area with internal passages. Ned’s badge got him into far more than just this one building, and he used all of the different paths regularly.
Today he come in to find the computers next door already churning through the data he had pulled from the state’s old system. Through Tim, Ned already had access to the federal criminal data, but it was sanitized by security agencies. While Ned had often been able to work past those roadblocks, it was dicey and had to be targeted. This state data dump’s primary value to Tim was linking names to businesses and criminal deals that were never prosecuted for whatever reason. An awful lot of federal contracts were handled by the same people who made money from state contracts. It was a priceless history of underworld dealings far into the past. For Ned, it was priceless in terms of patterns of human behavior. He was looking for anything that helped him project future criminal dealing based on how they thought and acted, and casting that against a different technological background. This was his own long-term personal project, in that both he and Tim were also protecting their virtual family. They were always keeping an eye on trends that might present a threat.