Distinctive takes a series of planes trying to go deeper into hiding. He tells the story of how Exclusivor blackmailed him, and how he flushed his own phone down the toilet. Lita shares a listener DM and talks statistics on the recordings.
If you want to hear a quick sample, check out this blurb from the recording:
Hey, this is Distinctive. I’m on a prop plane. This is maybe the worst flight I’ve ever been on. The plane - bucks - and yaws. I’m near the tail of the plane, and it swings wildly back and forth. Across the aisle and a row in front of me, a woman just threw up all over the place and it smells really bad. No one can come clean it up. I snapped a picture but it might be blurry.
Okay, we landed. Half the passengers kissed the ground when we deplaned. I have a layover here for the night. Gonna go get a hotel.
Okay, I’m in my hotel. I have a layover. You might be wondering why I’m recording these. So, I was in Ulaanbaatar yesterday and I saw a blonde guy and another guy. They looked like feds. Being on the run like this is nerve wracking. I know that Fishburne had realized I was in Mongolia so I decided I had to leave. I’m recording these, then going to upload them to a Google drive account I compromised. Some french lady named Marcy. At some point I’ll get them to my partner, LOL-Lita, and she’ll stitch them together and publish it.
It’s morning now. I woke up thinking about Exclusivor. She might be where I’m going. It makes sense. It’s the last place anyone would think to look, and if I thought of it, she probably did, too. It makes me think of the first time she contacted me.
I was at lunch at work. At that job, my work was super-locked down. I was technically not allowed to use my phone, but I was one of the bosses, so when I was wired in while coding, no one said anything. Everyone else had to drop their phone in a faraday bag at security. If they wanted to listen to music, they had to use an old MP3 player, vetted and approved by security.
It started while I was in the cafeteria, music from my ‘Lunch - Thursday’ playlist blaring in my earbuds, eating a sandwich, catching up on the latest from Lifehacker and Reddit.
Suddenly I hear a voice say, “Distinctive, listen to me.”
I jumped. What on earth? I glanced around. No one around me looked like they had said anything to me. But a couple people glanced at me.
The thing was, the Voice called me ‘Distinctive’. No one at work called me Distinctive. Where did the voice come from? My earbuds?! Was I going crazy?
After a moment, the Voice said, “Are you there, Distinctive?” The voice was distorted and deep, disguised like those crime shows trying to hide someone’s identity.
And it was coming through my earbuds!
So, it dawned on me. I must have accidentally called someone, so I replied, “Yes, I’m here. Sorry, I didn’t mean to call you.”
More people had glanced at me now. Was I on a verboten mobile phone? At work? And, was I talking to someone, or just talking to myself?
Let me just say, at this job, you did NOT want to be the crazy guy talking to himself. The work was too dicey. You can’t be the crazy guy. The crazy guy, the guy who cracked under the pressure, that guy always had two hours, max, then they gave him a cardboard box full of his personal effects, a severance check, and a security escort down to the street.
But who had I accidentally called? After a moment, the voice in my earbuds said, “Distinctive, you did not call anyone. I hacked your phone. Listen to me. I need your help.”
I yanked the earbuds out of my ears. Crap! I was hacked? No! This couldn’t be happening!
Being hacked was worse than being the crazy guy. This is why they don’t permit phones at work. Ahh! Just being hacked with an illicit phone could mean jailtime. It’s like having top secret documents on your personal laptop. Shit!
I looked around at the suits and security badges around me. So, this was at the Department of Energy. I worked with Atomic Lathes, a black organization so secret, at the time Congress had no idea it existed. Even now, it’s not general knowledge. Not only that, I had admin access to the network. I was two steps away from the nuclear codes. Being hacked would not fly. Even if I didn’t get jail time, if anyone there found out I had a hacked phone inside the office, I would lose my security clearance; without security clearance, I’d lose my job.
So, all that goes through my brain in a heartbeat.
Then the voice said, “Should I call you Distinctive, or use your real name, Sean Harley?”
Eff Bomb! Oh no, no, no, no! Not only was my phone hacked, but this Voice knew both my real life identity and my hacker handle. I was so busted.
And, the timbre of Voice had changed.
I looked at my phone. My earbuds were still plugged in, but the Voice now came through the phone’s speaker. Jerome and Nahim from security were eating at the next table. They looked at me.
Nahim said, “Everything okay there, Mr. Harley?”
I was like, “everything’s under control. Situation normal. How are you?” Ugh, note to self: shut up.
I turned away from Nahim and I knew there was one way to solve this. I grabbed up my phone and held down a combination of buttons to do a hard reboot.
The Voice said, “That won’t work, Sean. I disabled all the buttons.”
Oh my God! I had to leave. I got up. I walked across the cafeteria. The Voice said again, louder, “do you want me to call you Sean, or should I call you Distinctive?”
Every head nearby turned. Jerome stood up.
I squeezed the phone in my armpit, trying to muffle the speaker. I was dizzy. The Voice had done it again, it had said both my real name and my hacker handle.
Given my own legal problems, this is all public knowledge now, but at this point, not even my best friends knew both my real name, Sean Harley, and my online hacker handle, Distinctive. I felt the phone vibrating madly. At this point, being fired looked like the least worrying outcome. Apparently this hacker could trigger anything on the phone. At this point, I started worrying about prison. A klaxon alarm started blaring loudly. At this point, I panicked.
The whole cafeteria was looking at me. I hurried away at a brisk walk. I ripped the back off the phone; Pulled out the battery, the SIM card, and SD card. I went into the men’s room; Bashed the phone against the sink… Until it was mangled.
Then I dropped it into a toilet and flushed. Twice.
Then, I walked along the hallway back to my office. I dropped the battery into the break room trash bin.
I walked right up to Avanta; Avanta always smelled like cigarette smoke after she took a break. I asked her, “Avanta, can I borrow your cigarette lighter for a moment?”
She eyed me warily. But, I didn’t move. I just stood there for an uncomfortable moment.
Without looking away, Avanta grabbed her purse; I grabbed a sticky note from her desk; She dug out her lighter; I rolled the SIM and SD cards in the paper; She handed me the lighter; I took the lighter and… lit the paper on fire. And, a voice behind me said, “Sir, what are you doing?” It was Nahim. I suddenly realized both Jerome and Nahim were right behind me. Nahim said, “You’re going to set off the sprinklers!”
I knew the SIM and SD cards were already melted enough to be unusable, so I blew on the paper and waved my hands to clear the smoke. I dropped it all in Avanta’s trash.
I said, “Sorry, Nahim. I was just messing around. My bad.”
Things couldn’t get any better by me standing there talking, so I tossed Avanta her lighter and strode away to my office.
That was the first time I spoke to Exclusivor, though I didn’t know who it was for about another week. And things between her and I got a lot worse before they got better, which is why I think she and I can patch things up again now.
Right now, I’m waiting in an airport. Everyone around me looks worried. A Swedish lady just came up to me and said, “Gude Yelper Ossalla”. I’m not really sure what that means but I know what it means, if you know what I mean.
Of course, they’re all waiting to board a plane bound for the same place I’m going, so it makes sense they’re anxious.
(walking) I’m on the ground here in Zhengzhou, looking for a driver . I was really nervous flying out of Seoul. All that US Military. I’m really happy to be here. But man, it’s eery. I’m walking through the airport and nearly everyone is wearing a mask like mine. I the love masks. They are a big reason why I came here. But: Spooky AF.
In the car. Even in here Zhengzhou, there is hardly anyone on the street. This is a huge city, the size of New York City, I’m told. I’ve hired a driver and we’re the prowl. Last night at the hotel in Seoul, I found a black-market supply of Kaletra on Empire Market. It’s an HIV drug. Apparently HIV patients are selling their surplus as it’s been rumored to prevent the coronavirus.
Okay, back at the hotel now. I got the Kaletra. Kaletra? Kaletra? I dunno. I took my first dose. Hopefully it works. I’m gonna get some sleep now, I have to be up by – Oh, wow, this is great. I’ve been waiting for this call.
D: “Hey, Lita.”
L: “Dude, you were right. You were so right.”
D: “Tell me.”
L: “In a minute. First, if you are still in Mongolia, you need to move.”
D: “I’m not, but thanks.”
L: “Okay, second, are you listening to these recordings after we publish them?”
D: “I listened to the first couple.”
L: “Okay, stop. That’s how they tracked you.”
D: “Hmmph? Oh, you’re right. I didn’t think of that. You think they have access to our account?”
L: “For sure. Look, we only had like eight downloads the first couple of recordings. It’s easy to narrow down who’s listening. Easy to trace.”
D: “Gotcha. Good point. I used Tor but I’ve heard rumors about Tor being a glorified honey pot at this point. Next time I’ll use just tunnel through a server in Tehran or something.”
L: “So, you were one of the downloads, and I was another, we had a download in California, one in Texas and two in the London area.”
D: “That’s six. Where were the last two?”
L: “One in Kiev, one in Arlington, VA.”
D: “Arlington. I know who that one is.”
L: “Okay, just be careful. If we’re going to do this, you have to stay free.”
D: “Gotcha. But, hey, you called because you said someone contacted you? I’m dying to hear this.”
L: “Right. I don’t really do social media, but I have an old Instagram account. And, this woman found me. DMed me. I did a little research, I think she’s the one who downloaded from Texas.”
D: “Texas, why?”
L: “You’ll see. She got wind of what we are doing. Here’s what she wrote me: ‘Fuck you and that bitch Exclusivor. That bitch killed my best friend and you assholes are trumping her up like Exclusivor is some sort of hero. She’s not a fucking hero. She’s a killer. She killed Claire. I hope you all burn in hell.’”
L: “I know, right? You sure this Exclusivor friend of yours isn’t really who they say she is?”
D: “Yeah, I’m sure. I know all about the Claire stuff. It’s complete BS. I can explain all of that. She didn’t kill her. Not on purpose at least. What else?”
L: “Hold on. Tell me what happened with Claire.”
D: “I can’t right now. Look, I’ll dig up this old stuff I have from those days. I have it all on stashed on a server somewhere. There’s an explanation. And really, this is good. It’ll show you how far back this smear campaign goes. They’ve been trying to discredit her for ages.”
L: “Just tell me right now.”
D: “I want to refresh my memory. Just give me a week, okay? There’s all these police reports and interrogation recordings.”
L: “Fine, but I’m going to look into it, too. What’s Claire’s last name?”
D: “Uh, I want to say Bartholemew? Barton. Claire Barton.”
L: “Okay, I’m going to do some digging. Talk to you.”
D: “Lita? Okay…”
So, I guess, uh, that’s all. I’m going to relax now with some ASMR from outside my window. Feel free to listen and relax with me.
Okay, 3:45am local time. Yesterday, I found a willing driver and he wants to leave at 4:00am so I’m headed downstairs. He’s driving in some supplies for his family. He also speaks English, which is great. He said once we get there, he doesn’t think we’ll be able to leave for a long time, so his minivan is packed to the rafters. So, I’ll check back in when I get there.
“Thank you! Be safe, brother! Love to your family!”
Okay, I just got dropped off. This is crazy. This is crazy. I am in Wuhan, China. I know, I know. But, this is the perfect place to hide, No one will come looking for me at the epicenter of the corona virus outbreak, even if they know I’m here. At least it buys me some time to figure out my next steps. Gotta find a place to stay.