Welcome to the Wonderful
World of Frank
Start your week with Frank: A new chapter is posted every Monday morning
New to the Alexandria Project? Been away for a while and can't remember who's who? Hoping to pick up on a clue to what may lie ahead? That's what this page is for.
I Plot Synopsis
Well, of course you should just read the bloody thing. But if that's just too much trouble, here you go.
Our story so far: The story begins in Chapter 1 (no big surprise there) as Frank Adversego, a long-time member of the Library of Congress (LoC) Information Technology (IT) department, is smarting from being passed over to lead an important security project (office weasel and IT incompetent Rick Wellesley was given the project leader job instead). After making a fool of himself at the LoC holiday party, he decides to show everyone that he is the better choice - but finds that his security plan has disappeared. A strange message on his computer informs him that it has been "contributed" to something called the "Alexandria Project."
As Frank puzzles over this in Chapter 2, his daughter Marla arrives, and Frank explains the realities and failings of modern security. He also realizes, to his smug satisfaction, that the Alexandria Project isn’t his problem at all – Rick Wellesley will have to deal with it. A wise-guy response to Frank’s boss, George Marchand, to that effect looks suspicious in retrospect when George calls Frank on the carpet the next morning in Chapter 3.
Frank figures he does need to help get to the bottom of what’s going on, and in Chapter 4 connects the dots between the ancient Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt with the “contribution” screen left by the LoC’s hackers, but it’s too early to guess whether the connection is helpful or simply meant to deceive.
Chapter 5 serves to introduce a new thread to the plot, as Frank attends the holiday party of the high tech firm that Marla is interning at, called iBalls.com. The company is a throwback to the hype and nonsense of the Internet bubble years, as personified by iBalls.com lead investor Josh Peabody, form the TrashTalk LLP venture capital fund, in Silicon Valley. Frank spends a recreational half hour appalling Peabody by describing an imaginary business plan to create the Perpetual Kitten.
But while Frank is enjoying himself at the VC’s expense, the Alexandria Project hackers are setting off a new attack on the LoC. Frank soon finds himself in Chapter 6 being interviewed by CIA Agent Carl Cummings, who plays on Frank’s arrogance to get Frank to say more – on tape – than Frank later wishes he had shared. Why? Because Frank finds that he has just demonstrated exactly the behavior outlined in the suspect profile that the CIA has worked up for the Alexandria Project attacker. Frank realizes that the CIA may be tempted to use him as a scapegoat if they can’t find the real attackers fast, and decides in Chapter 7 that he’d better start doing some contingency planning – and fast.
In Chapter 8, Marla learns to her anger and surprise that a teaching assistant that she had dated – and later hated – as a freshman is now none other than CIA Agent Carl Cummings. Frank also reveals to her that he may need to go underground if things become too hot for him at work.
In Chapter 9, when George shows him a letter has just received from “Zenodotus” on behalf of the Project. He also learns that the attackers have now struck the Department of Defense, White House, MIT and Google as well. Zenodotus reveals that the motive for the attacks is the government’s failure to deal with cybersecurity threats. The attacker says that unless the government announces an immediate, government-wide halt to its digitizing of information, that the attackers will strike even more broadly. To Frank’s concern, George tells him that he must put Frank on administrative leave.
Unknown to Frank and Carl Cummings, however, Frank’s boss George Marchand is actually the Cybersecurity Director for the entire government, as we learn in Chapter 10. Far from suspecting Frank, George has actually been making Frank feel insecure as a means to make his brilliant but historically unfocused employee sufficiently motivated to get to the bottom of the Alexandria Project plot. To Carl’s humiliation, he is told that his new assignment is to secretly protect Frank – and Marla as well.
Meanwhile, Frank is putting the finishing touches on his escape plan, which we learn he is funding through an ingenious, but legal, attack on the ludicrous iBalls.com business. Also in Chapter 11, the iBalls.com founders find that they have been sold down the river by their VC, Josh Peabody.
With the money he has reaped through the iZapper! mobile phone he has secretly designed for sale through the Pangloss Game Company (owned by old friend Archie Pangloss), Frank gives Carl Cummings the slip in Chapter 12.
With Frank on the run who knows where, Carl tries in Chapter 13 to catch him communicating with Marla, but they easily outwit him, using social networking sites to pass coded messages back and forth.
In Chapter 14, we find that Frank has reached his destination: Las Vegas, where he had previously arranged to rent a survivalist's off-road camper. As the end chapter ends, Frank heads North into the wilderness to make camp so that he can get down to the serious business of catching the Alexandria Project culprits - bringing us now, for the time being, up to date.
The Alexandria Project makes its first public move in Chapter 15,
highjacking the main evening news broadcasts of each of the three networks and CNN (but not Fox; they evidently decided to target only real news shows). With the cat out of the bag and the government accused of hiding information from the public, the powers that be are now very much on the spot. Meanwhile, Frank arrives in at a strange, even alien, location in Nevada.
In Chapter 16
, Frank explores the weirdness of Area 51, and on a moonlit road to the future, we learn more about Frank's past.
II Cast of Characters
Major characters have already figured heavily in the plot. Some may stay that way, others may not. Who really knows? Minor characters are those that have been mentioned but have thus far functioned only as plot devices or supporting props. But you never know - some of these seeds may germinate and grow. Those that do (assuming any do) will be bumped up to Major Character status at the appropriate time.
Frank Adversego: Our hero, of course. We met Frank in Chapter 1, learning that he was an exceptionally insightful, if socially isolated, security expert. Frank works in the IT department of the Library of Congress, where he found refuge after bumping around for years in dead end jobs. His early promise - MIT scholarship, seminal paper on Internet security, McArthur Fellowship - hadn't borne fruit, largely because of his arrogance and lack of focus. Frank is divorced, dotes on his only child (daughter Marla), lives in a cheap apartment in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and is plagued by his mother's exceptionally obese and asocial corgi, Lilly.
Marla Adversego: Frank’s daughter, who we first hear about in Chapter 1, is a graduate student at Georgetown University, in Washington. Unlike Frank, she is personable and outgoing. While an undergraduate at George Washington University, she runs into future CIA Agent Carl Cummings, as we learn in Chapter 7.
Carl Cummings: If Carl were to choose a theme song for himself, it would certainly be I'm Too Sexy, wouldn't it? CIA Agent cummings is too impressed with himself for his own good, and also in love with the idea of being a real secret agent. Carl briefly dated Marla when he was a grad student teaching assistant, and she was a freshman. It didn't end well. We first meet Carl in Chapter 6.
George Marchand: Frank’s boss at the LoC, and much earlier, his mentor at the MIT Project Athena lab. In Chapter 10, we learn that George is also the CIA Director of Cybersecurity, and uses his LoC position as both a cover as well as an opportunity to test security defenses in the field.
Doreen Adversego: Frank's mother, who we meet briefly in Chapter 1.
Frank Adversego, Sr.: Excellent - you nailed it. We learn in Chapter 6 that Frank Sr. abandoned the family when Frank was 14.
Mary Briggs: The LoC's sullen receptionist. But she thinks that Carl Cummings is hot. She pops up from time to time.
Chad Derwent and Vinod Shah: The founders of iBalls.com, a dot.bomb company supported by VC fund Trasktalk LLP and its managing partner, Josh Peabody. iBalls.com involuntarily provides Frank the funding he needs to pursue the Alexandria Project in Chapter 11.
Mrs. Foomjoy: Frank's neighbor across the hall. Perpetually garbed in curlers, housedress and fuzzy slippers, she dotes on Lilly, and bears a striking resemtblance to North Korean dictator Kim Il-Jung.
We make our first delightful acquaintance with her early in Chapter 1
Earl Jenkins: Tennessee expat and conservative survivalist. In Chapter 14, Frank meets Earl and daughter Ida May Jukes in Las Vegas, and rents the wondrous, solar-equipped off-road EarthRoamer from Earl that will serve as Frank's base of operations while he seeks to crack the Alexandria Project's secrets.
Lilly: The morbidly obese Corgi fobbed off on Frank by his mother when she enters the retirement home. Lilly loves Mrs. Foomjoy, and barks incessently at Frank (when she pays any attention to him at all). We meet Lilly in the first lines of Chapter 1.
Josh Peabody: The amoral (at best) general partner of ultra hip Silicon Valley
VC fund Trashtalk LLP. We first meet Josh in Chapter 5
, when Frank puckishly pitches a fictitious business idea to him focusing on the "perpetual kitten."
A grizzled desert rat Frank meets in Chapter 16
at the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, Nevada, population 98 (assuming everyone's home)
Rick Wellesley: A quintessential office weasel, he's always looking out for number one (and first appears in the chapter of the same numeral).