LOL-Lita and Sam Fishburne wore tiny cameras and were making an assault on Drive, Bye, LLC. Sean watched them on a monitor, standing in Stoney’s hotel room in San Jose. They had been staring at the screens for three hours, and it was like watching someone play the world’s most boring video game.
In the feed, the pair were looking into darkened office windows, trying to find a computer for a Rubber Ducky, or a network port for a Raspberry Pi.
Sean watched passively. He was thinking about a dream he had had the night before. The dream was about Exclusivor. Even though she was the center of all this, Sean hadn’t spent much time thinking about Exclusivor for the last two weeks. But in the dream, Distinctive had just left Lita’s hotel room in the middle of the night. He went to his own hotel room and the next thing he knew, Exclusivor was knocking on his door. Sean at first hid, but through the door, Exclusivor said she was being framed, and begged Sean to let her in. When Sean finally relented, Exclusivor pulled of a mask – it was his boss Geri! And what happened next… was.. well you… you know. Then Sean had awoken, and instead of Geri lying next to him, it was Avanta. When Avanta said, “good morning,” it was in the deep, manly, distorted sound of the Voice.
Now in Stoney’s hotel room, in the monitors showing Lita and Fishburne’s camera feeds Fishburne was for some reason picking up a heavy trash can and looking like he wanted to bash something.
The camera feed had only video, no audio, so even if they asked Sam what he was doing, he couldn’t reply. Lita and Fishburne had made it in the door after several failed attempts at engineering their way in and since had been exploring the massive Drive Bye warehouse. The warehouse was huge, several football fields wide and long.
At a desk in the hotel room, Stoney sat at Lita’s laptop and typed in flurries, preparing for the Rubber Ducky to connect so they could get a shell on the network. He was also keeping #TheCollective posted in their IRC channel. It was all hands on deck for this hack.
Sean fell back to dissecting his dream. He hadn’t heard from the Voice for five days running. He felt the dream was an amalgamation of the pressure he felt from the most prominent women in his life, especially the Voice, who Lita was convinced was female. Sean was greatly relieved the dream had not involved his mother, especially because she probably would have encouraged him to ask one of the women out.
Sean hoped the dream was really over this time, though, even three hours later, standing in Stoney’s hotel room, he still wasn’t sure if it was. For one thing, Avanta was standing right next to him, watching Fishburne’s feed with particular interest. Yup, Avanta. To Distinctive’s massive chagrin, she was Sam Fishburne’s guest. They were having a fling. Sam Fishburne had stupidly invited her to help.
Sean’s head was spinning like Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter after Han had blasted — eh. Distinctive was tired of it. So tired. So sick of everything he couldn’t even finish a Star Wars analogy.
Distinctive looked at the screen Stoney was typing at. In IRC, Bitslapt had just posted a bunch of research he had done on Claire, the woman in Dallas at the beginning of this trail. Yet another person Exclusivor had killed.
Bitslapt posted that he had hacked into Claire’s Facebook, Twitter and iCloud accounts. He said that in the last year before she died, Claire had taken over fifty-thousand photos on her iPhone. Bitslapt thought that was mind-blowing. Bitslapt typed, “I mean, who takes that many photos knowing the NSA is intercepting everything?”
Sean read the ensuing flurry of messages. In the last two weeks, he almost never got to just hang out in IRC, or to hack. He’d been hacked, blackmailed, he barely helped save the planet from a wobbly atomic lathe, hid from his horny boss four nights running and a dozen times had been accosted by Avanta in her typically unique and-or crazy fashion.
Avanta was bouncing up and down. She was tense, keenly watching the boring camera feeds. Earlier, Lita and Fishburne had tried three times before getting in on the fourth attempt. Lita had expertly used the fact that she looked eight months pregnant to her advantage. The first three attempts failed when the employees told them they must swipe in, even as they held the door for them. When they couldn’t, one guy even smiled as he closed the door firmly, nearly clipping Lita’s large belly as he did so.
Each failure tied Avanta in more knots. Distinctive enjoyed it. Lita was one of his best friends, but Fishburne was a jerk.
Three failures, but a hacker only needs to succeed once. Distinctive knew from a lot of past hacks that you might try a hundred times before you succeeded.
The fourth time, Lita and Sam were about fifteen paces behind three employees, textbook. You wanted the employees to have time to swipe in themselves, open the door, and hold it wide open so you can breeze right by, hopefully at a trot that told them you didn’t want to waste their time with petty little things like swiping in.
Lita had trouble trotting with her big, _fake_, silicon pregnancy belly, which didn’t fit her tightly enough and, all morning, had been slipping. She trotted by the door looking like she was suddenly giving birth to a blob of silicon. Fishburne’s feed caught glimpses of her, and Stoney and Avanta almost died laughing. Lita and Fishburne had made it in.
Now, a couple of hours later, Fishburne was carrying a trash can and Lita was trying to stop him. Distinctive suddenly took notice and sat up. He said, “Stoney, quick, hand me the walkie-talkie.” When he did, Distinctive took it and punched the button and said to Lita and Fishburne’s earpieces, “Sam, don’t! It will draw too much attention!”
If Fishburne did what Distinctive thought he was doing, security would notice them for sure. Even this warehouse’s amateurish security.
On a burner phone sitting on the hotel dresser, Distinctive heard Q’s voice say, “Oh, come on! What is that moron thinking?”
It was the nicest thing Q had said that morning. Q was dialed in through the Signal App and most of what he had said so far had to do with his utter disappointment in Distinctive’s IRL, Sean, and most of his sentences ended in an exclamation point, not a period. Q didn’t use a lot of commas, either. Now, he and Distinctive were hoping Fishburne didn’t throw a trash can through the office window.
Avanta chose that moment to engage her Weird Vibe, and said, “Hey, Stoney. Everyone has a hacker handle. Do you have any ideas for one for me?” Stoney and Avanta had become fast friends, but Stoney just shook his head.
At the same time as Sean, Q and Stoney simultaneously told Avanta, “Not now!” Then, then all three said, “Jinx!” And then, despite themselves, they all laughed.
Distinctive liked being in the room with hackers, they were the best — even if Q had lit into him like a troll in a massive Reddit thread. Distinctive didn’t care, as long as they were still his friends; and it appeared that they were.
And a good thing, too, because just then, Fishburne threw the trash can at the window. It was reinforced glass, so it didn’t break. Fishburne picked it up and threw it twice more and when there was a big enough dent, reached around and unlocked the door. He quickly went in, followed by Lita.
The resolution of the pinhole cameras was surprisingly good. They saw Lita plug a Rubber Ducky into one of the computers, reach her hand out in front of her and give a thumbs up. But, just as Lita gave the thumbs up, Avanta dropped a fifty pound f-bomb, snatched the talkie from Sean’s hand and started shouting at Lita and Fishburne to hide. Hurry – hide!
Distinctive saw it, too. A security guard was investigating the broken window. The guard peeked through the window Fishburne had bashed, and before they could hide, the guard saw them.
Everything stopped for a second. They needed to stay calm. They could do this. Distinctive had been in worse binds. In Fishburne’s feed, they could see the guard in the hallway. Avanta grabbed Sean’s arm and asked, “What’s the guard doing?!”
Sean saw it, too. He punched the talkie. He said, “Sam, Lita, the guard is jamming a shim on the door frame.” Sam hurried over and pulled on the door. Stuck. They were trapped. Avanta grew pale. “Sam, can you take the hinges off?” Distinctive had pranked people before by penny-locking them in, and he knew it was the same concept the guard was using to shim the door to keep them in. The best solution was to remove the hinges.
Sam gave him a thumbs down. Distinctive looked at Stoney. He looked worried. Sean looked at Avanta. She looked worried, but at least she wasn’t bouncing.
Distinctive grabbed two burner phones. He dialed one from the other, plugged his earbuds into one phone and wired himself in. He put the other one on speaker and set it next to the phone Q was on. He said, “Stoney, hack the security camera feed. Q, get a shell on the network. I’m going to help them.”