Oh man, waking up next to Avanta day in and day out was so fantastic. We made love in the morning, the sunlight peaking through the shear curtains, spilling through the east-facing wall of windows, illuminating her beautiful dark skin, highlighting that cute little birthmark on her inner thigh. A birthmark I am happy to say, I got a close up of each and every morning.
Avanta was always pretty happy about it, too.
After making love, we’d lay there whispering to each other, a pretzel of cuddling, until one of us had to pee, and we’d both get up and shower together, drink coffee, and decide what we wanted to do that day. Did we want to deal with a bitchy Atomic Lathe and be heroes for keeping the world safe, or maybe stroll around the city, take in a museum, visit our friends, then come home early and return to bed.
I hated waking up from that dream.
It took two weeks to recuperate after Exclusivor sprung me from the hospital. She said she was helping, I said she was kidnapping. When we arrived at the parking garage, the trunk opened and a powerful kerosene smell overcame me. My eyes immediately started watering and I blindly jabbed with my crutch just like I planned – and I gave Lita a black eye. Lita was trying to surprise me, but I ruined it. How was I supposed to know that Exclusivor already sprung her and Stoney and we were all flying on a private jet out of the country asap?
Exclusivor was so mad that I not only doxxed her but also tried to assault her with a crutch, that she gave me a bunch of black-market Canadian morphine.
I missed the whole plane ride. The next thing I remember, I was waking up in this huge bedroom in this huge mansion, and my Mom was taking care of me. No, for real. That wasn’t the morphine, it was really my mom, in a mansion.
This place, the other people there nicknamed it The Lair. It was so huge, I practically needed Google Maps to find my way around. It was full of hackers, and helpers. Everyone was personally recruited by Exclusivor. Hand picked. I was the only one there against my will.
Mom was having the time of her life.
The dining room staff were about the only non-hackers in the Lair. But Samme the Sous Chef said they completely bought into this crazy idea Exclusivor is selling, which I think is madness that will never fly. But, I’m the only one even on the fence about it. Mom was all-in. Lita is possibly the most skeptical person on the planet, and she chugged the Kool-aid.
One morning, about two weeks in to my stay The Lair, which I wasn’t allowed to leave, I told Lita about the Avanta dream. Lita was still working on forgiving me for the black eye, but she said, “Really, Avanta? She’s a little weird for you, isn’t she?”
I said, “What do you mean? I’m in love with her.” Lita tilted her head and said, “I think Fishburne rattled your brain. You’ve never liked weird people.” I said, (loudly) “I do too like weird people!” just when Exclusivor walked over. It was like if you are at a club talking loudly over the music and the music suddenly cuts out.
Exclusivor said, “Okay, Check that box. Distinctive likes his ladies weird.”
I was embarrassed. Again.
I had a lot of embarrassing moments in those first two weeks. Exclusivor never missed a chance, even though Mom disapproved and Mom was practically the only one Exclusivor listened to. Exclusivor often referred to my infamous beating video as the “Fishburne Beat Down” or FBD for short. And Exclusivor had it ready to play any time she wanted to shut-down a conversation with me. Like, when she and I had a disagreement about Atomal or Avanta, or anything, really.
Once, I entered the war-room pointing to my laptop and said to her, “look, I just found this on the FBI web site — because of you, I’m on the Cyber’s Most Wanted List!”
She said, “Oh, boo-hoo, call me when you join me on the Ten Most and we’ll have coffee.” She had a jail-broken and highly customized iPhone to which she said, “Siri, play the beat-down” and the brutal video started playing on every monitor in sight. And, the war-room was wall-to-wall monitors. It was humiliating.
Laughter erupted, of course. What a bunch of brown-nosers kissing up to the alpha-hacker. Most of the guys and half the women were also trying to get in her pants. As-if. Exclusivor was out of everyone’s league.
Lita recovered from her black-eye about the same time I fully recovered from the FBD. Even though I apologized to her, like, a million times and explained I didn’t know it was her letting me out of the trunk of the car, and I didn’t mean to hit her, she was still mad.
Lita referred to the Lair as the Cloud City of Bespin, because of white. The walls, the floors, the furniture, all white. Another group of hackers told her Cloud City was a stupid name. They called it “The Repository”. The OSINT and COMINT teams preferred SO-RAD while the team creating deep fakes for blackmail preferred “Beaver Dam”. It was like a competition.
But whatever, the place was impressive. The insanely rich have all these empty homes run by resentful caretakers barely scraping by. Caretakers who love hackers and rebels and anarchists and loan out the homes willingly. When the caretakers get wind of the owner’s return, the Lair simply bugs out. Samme the Sous Chef said Bug Outs are a frat party mixed with the Amazing Race. Everybody get hammered, packs up the stuff, cleans out the current Lair, divide into small groups, and race to rendezvous at the new Lair, which is sometimes on a whole other continent.
Awesome. Perfect cover for when Mom and I make a break for it. We’ll just disappear.
You know those brown-nosers I mentioned? Exclusivor put a stop to all that nonsense. One day, I’m sitting at Big Ben, this huge grandfather clock in the massive foyer, and I’m on my own laptop again catching up on some old hacks, and starting new ones, mainly to see how much trouble I’d be in if I was apprehended. Answer: a lot.
Then I overheard this Romanian hacker whispering to a hacker recruited from Alaska that Exclusivor was trying to put together a Blue Team. Fear of being stuck on the Blue Team sent both of the bootlickers scurrying for dark corners in order to avoid attracting attention.
I suspected Exclusivor started the rumor herself, so the fanboys would leave her alone.
On the other hand, Exclusivor’s reputation online was so outsized, and her Collective so big that rival hacking collectives like Sindictive’s Syndicate had taken notice and were attacking our network. As good as everyone there was at hacking, no one cared to put ten calories into implementing a real network defense. I knew I would be good at leading that team, but alas, I didn’t intend to stay.
I was gonna be all ‘adios, sayōnara, don’t let the auf wiedersehen hit you in the aloha, I bought a ticket to see-you-the-eff-later!”
During the next Bug-out, I was going to disengage and float away with rest of the garbage.