One of my favorite characters in Prodigies (they’re all my favorite characters, honestly) is the notorious hacker Weissrogue. An idealist who feels the end justifies his illegal means, he’s the character you’re glad is on your side:
“You need to know that ‘Weissrogue’ translates just as you may think — to “White Rogue”. I was only about 15 when I named myself, and I look at it now and think it’s appropriate not because I was a white hat hacker but because I was a pasty white kid.” He was indeed, I thought, a pasty white kid still.
“That whole thing I did when I was fifteen — I can’t stand violence in any form. I suppose I would use it in self-defense if I had to, but even then, I wonder. I just wanted to get the government to think differently about weapons of mass destruction —”
At age 15, as this passage hints, Weissrogue hacked several world powers and took their missile programs off-line. Realizing he was too talented to kill, the US government took him in and made him their pet hacker.
Now 39 years old, the suspected Prodigy tracks suspected Prodigies in the US — but not necessarily for the benefit of the US government:
“I’m not a double agent,” the stocky man corrected. “I’m the Prodigies’ agent; I’m not a double agent because I’m not letting out anything to help Renaissance Theory or Homeland; in fact, I’m misguiding them. But when it comes to Prodigies, my allegiance will always be to them. Something my employers don’t need to know.”
“So you’re hiding the existence of Prodigies?”
“Prodigies, yes. Organizations that deal with Prodigies, no. That’s why I signed up with the government — on this new project, anyhow. I don’t like anyone ‘managing’ a minority for any reasons, and governments — no matter how benign — want to use Prodigies.”
I wondered if the US was among the benign or not.
I’ll take a moment to interrogate Weissrogue, so you can get to learn about him a little more:
Me: So, what’s your real name, Weissrogue?
W: For all intents and purposes, it’s Weissrogue. My birthname was changed by the US Government when they took me in after the missile failure, and I’ve gone by so many names that the only name that has stayed with me throughout is Weissrogue. I have a presence in the real world as Arthur Schmidt, locksmith and cryptologist, but I don’t want people associating Weissrogue with Schmidt. I have to keep that name clean to keep trust with the government, who don’t realize they have a big government contract for security with Weissrogue.
Me: Why Weissrogue?
W: Easy. I was fifteen, and I wanted to make a name for myself as a black hat hacker for humanitarian reasons. “Weiss” means “white” and “rogue”, of course, means “rogue”.
Me: Do you ever hack for non-humanitarian reasons?
W: It’s a waste of time to hack for pizza, or for money for that matter — unless you’re slowly draining some despot’s bank account and giving the money to charity.
Me: Not taking the money yourself?
W: I have enough money. I have a lucrative security contract with the government, remember?
Me: So what turned you into such a humanitarian?
W: I spent my life in military schools as a ward of the US government. I don’t know if I never had any parents, or if they surrendered me. This is a pattern you see with a lot of Prodigies. I was subjected to endless discipline, especially as I was a naturally rebellious person. It got to the point where they modeled me into exactly the opposite of who they were: Instead of conforming, rebellious; instead of hierarchical, egalitarian; instead of military, pacifist. I tried to relate to the people around me instead of their roles, and they punished me until I didn’t care anymore. And I took their hatred and used it to hack into the security software for the missiles.
Me: What did they do?
W: First off, they kept me a secret even after they found me. I can’t blame them — however, it wasn’t entirely successful; the news media was lucky enough to find my leaks. When the government finally caught me, they didn’t know what to do because I was their ward — and they were hoping I would show my talent. We arranged for my death, and I became their top secret government worker. So, in effect, I’m dead.
Me: But you don’t always do what the government tells you to.
W: Shhhh. That’s a secret.