If Riley had felt like she was being watched at work for the past week or so, today was extremely uncomfortable.
Every time she passed by one of the security guards, they watched her like a hawk until she was out of sight. Her skin crawled each time she came in close proximity. It was like they were just daring her to slip up and prove to them that she…wait, what were they suspicious of her for? Did they know about her connection to DedSec? How could they? Maybe the backdoor incident with Marcus? If so, why did they wait so long? Shit.
Riley played it as cool as she could, not wanting to give them any more reason to be wary. She pretended like she didn't even notice, and worked through the day without anything out of the ordinary happening. Until her lunch break came around.
Dan rounded the corner to her cubicle just as she stood to leave, placing her headset on the charger. "Hey, Riley?"
"Uh, yeah…did you need something?" She asked, a little surprised Dan was talking to her all of a sudden. This wasn't his usual time to speak to her.
He shrugged, handing her a letter. "Just came from a meeting, and the boss wanted me to give this to you. Any idea what it is?"
She took the letter, looking over the blank front. "No." Was her honest answer. There wasn't anything she'd been expecting. Her heart sank as a feeling of dread came over her. Shit…
"Alright well, have a good lunch." He said, going back to his own desk. She heard him sit down and take his headset off of his charger, clicking and typing as he logged back into his work system.
Riley immediately opened the envelope and read the contents.
It has come to our attention that your employee file contains some discrepancies. This could either mean the information we have is incorrect, or there are values missing within the system. We would like to fix this issue as soon as possible.
In addition, there is a possibility your workspace was corrupted during an IT issue last week, and we'd like our technicians to take a look. This will take up most of the afternoon, so management has approved a half-day leave of absence while the inspection and update takes place. You may clock-out during your lunch period and take the rest of the day off.
Please report to the IT director on the first floor tomorrow morning before your shift to have the issues in your file addressed, and please notify management should you notice any continuing problems with your workspace.
Riley wondered if it were really discrepancies in her file, or if this was a way for upper management to pin her in a corner without alerting her to anything they suspected. The corrupted workspace she knew to be a lie. There were no issues with her system, and it was probably just a way for them to snoop through her files. She had a feeling it was the latter, but if they fired her, what could she really do? She'd known the risks by helping DedSec. Seemed it was all starting to come to a head. She supposed it was fitting anyway. Her investigative job was pulling out on her. Why not ProviBlue too?
The compiling problems were discouraging and left her feeling drained. Maybe a nap was in order. That, or some cuddles with Pants. She hadn't been able to spend time with the cat quite like she used to. Not for lack of caring or anything, but with DedSec and work, there just wasn't time anymore.
Riley tucked the letter into her bag and took her leave, not feeling quite as hungry as she had a minute ago. Yes, a nap was definitely in order.
The brunette was altogether not surprised when, as soon as she mentioned to the gang that they let her go early, they already had a task for her to do. And funnily enough, her fatigue from earlier at work was gone, excited with the prospect of what her next mission would be. Would it be as exciting as when her and Wrench blew up those bank machines?
Turns out, it wasn't. But, it was still important to DedSec, so she didn't mind.
"We've been getting reports that the Bratva are running around outside their usual area of influence. We're not quite sure what it means yet, but we've got a guy digging in for more info." Marcus told her.
"That's not all though." Josh said. "Wrench noticed that FBI vans are being posted in various areas around the city."
"FBI? What for?"
"Who knows?" Marcus said. "But I don't like the fact that both the FBI and Bratva are active at the same time. Something's up. I want to know what."
"What do you need me to do?" She asked, getting dressed into something more comfortable than her normal work clothing. The slacks and blouse were stifling in the heat from outside.
Sitara jumped in this time. "Wrench is out looking into a lead on the FBI already. Meet with our informant and see what they've learned about the Bratva so far. It could be nothing, but better to know what's going on with the gangs than to be caught by surprise."
"Alright, got it." Riley said. "Anything I should know before I go?"
"We've sent the coordinates to your GPS. Just watch out for Bratva. And FBI." Josh added helpfully, and Riley grinned.
"That goes without saying."
Riley ended up just taking the bus rather than drive her own car. It wasn't that far from home, and she didn't feel like driving anyway. It reminded her too much that she wasn't at work, which only distracted her with worries about the state of her employment.
Shaking away her thoughts, Riley got off at the closest stop and walked towards the GPS location that Josh had marked. She passed by shops and eating establishments on either side of the street, and the smells were heavenly. She still hadn't eaten lunch, but that could come afterwards. DedSec needed this info first.
The marker brought her to a small cafe. She walked in, and looked around. They hadn't told her who she'd be meeting, but they didn't have to. She recognized Gooly immediately and wandered over when he waved.
She sat in the seat opposite him, and returned his fist bump. "What's up Gooly?"
"Not much, you?"
"Oh you know, the usual." She smiled, watching him munch away on a donut. "Got some info for me?"
He nodded, finishing his bite of his food and wiping at his mouth before clearing his throat. "So, the Bratva. They're venturing out of their territory for some reason."
"Do we know why?"
Gooly shrugged. "Can't tell for sure, but it seems to me that they're looking for someone or something. The bosses are pretty tight-lipped about who or what, even in emails and phone calls, so I haven't been able to narrow it down yet."
Riley nodded, grateful when the waitress came over and offered her a menu. She was starving. Placing a quick order, she sent the menu back off with the waitress before continuing her conversation. "That's a bit concerning. If there's a shift in power between the gangs, who knows what sort of effect that could have?"
"Exactly. Remove one piece and the whole system can go out of whack."
Riley nodded slowly, processing the info. What the Bratva were doing could be nothing more than recon. Checking on their rivals without making any moves yet. Though, things could be much worse than they thought.
"Anything else I need to know?" She asked, seeing he'd finished his meal. He cleared the plate and wiped his mouth, signaling to the waitress that he'd like his check. She brought it around and he gave her his card.
"Just watch your back. We don't quite know what they're after yet, so be alert wherever you go. The Bratva aren't kind to people who snoop into their business. Tell the others to be careful, too."
"I will." She said, going quiet as the waitress came around with his bill. He quickly signed the paper and snatched his card back. She thanked him and Gooly stood to leave. Riley nodded a quick goodbye as he stood, watching him exit the cafe and walk away down the sidewalk.
Riley sat there and waited for her own food, her stomach grumbling in anticipation.
"So, according to Gooly," Riley told the others after having finished her meal, "the Bratva seem to be searching for…something. We aren't quite sure who or what yet."
"Huh. Must be important if they're this far out of their turf." Wrench said, having finished his lead.
"I guess. Gooly says we should tread carefully, though. Bratva on the move aren't a good sign, and the shift of gang power could cause something big." Riley was walking her way over to the bus station, intent on catching the next train.
"We will. In the meantime, Josh thinks he uncovered something that could be related to all this movement." Marcus input, and Josh took over from there.
"Alejandro Jackofski has been giving illegal immigrants passports in exchange for performances for his pornographic films. The Bratva are in business with him, helping traffic the immigrants over."
"Jeez…" She muttered, grimacing at the description. It didn't sound too pleasant. "Maybe this is related somehow?"
"Not sure, but it's worth a look." Marcus answered. "Sitara and I are off to investigate. We'll keep in touch."
"Alright, be careful." The line disconnected, but she felt a vibrate in her ear a moment later. "Yes?"
"Are you really going to take the bus home when I'm like a five minute drive away from you?" Wrench asked incredulously, and she smiled.
"Is that an offer?"
"Is that a refusal?"
"I suppose not." She laughed.
"With all these Bratva and FBI fucks wandering around, we shouldn't be going places alone. That's why Sitara's going with Marcus."
It made sense, but it still felt nice to know that Wrench was looking out for her. Even if just in a logical and business sense. "Thanks for watching out for me."
"Well, if I don't, who's going to?"
She had nothing to say to that, because the answer was really nobody. Of course, the other members of DedSec would be watching her back too. But from Riley's perspective, Wrench represented DedSec to her, which left nobody else on that list. She sat on the closest bench and waited for him to come get her, like the gentleman he was.
"So, what's with the FBI?" Riley asked while he drove her home. Obviously the subject irritated him, because his eyes became angry slants.
"They're following other hacker groups around, putting the pressure on…it's happened before, but the timing makes me a little worried."
"Well…" He paused, making sure his earpiece was turned off. "Having the FBI close by is never good. Plus, with Ray joining the group and the FBI showing up in the same few weeks? I don't like it."
Riley raised a brow in surprise. "You don't trust him?"
"I like not to trust anyone until I know where their loyalties lie. I mean…you know that." He said with a careless hand gesture, referring to his initial animosity towards her when she first joined. She nodded her understanding.
"Sure, you could be right. But it could be any number of things that caused them to scout the area, and any number of people who could have alerted them to what we're doing."
"Yeah, I know…I just want to bring up the possibility to someone I trust. Just to get the idea out there." He admitted, eyes returning to Xs. Riley smiled when she realized Wrench trusted her. The topic needed no further discussion, though.
Despite the controversial conversation, the drive was too short, in her opinion. The cafe hadn't been all that far from home anyways, but the transit system always took longer than a car drive. Wrench got them there in record time, and Riley was sad their visit came to an end.
He walked her to her door on the third floor, leaning casually against the wall while she unlocked it. "Thanks again for taking me home. You seem to be doing that a lot lately."
"Ah, don't mention it. I don't mind." He shrugged away the thanks, glad the mask covered his flustered face. Riley's perfume smelled really good this close up, and he couldn't get the scent out of his conscious.
The lock clicked and she opened it easily. "See you around." She bid him goodbye, flashing him a quick smile before disappearing behind the door.
Riley rested her head against the door and sighed deeply. Her heart ached for a brief moment, and she knew her feelings were much deeper for the hacker than she'd thought they would go. He was just so…charming. And considerate. Funny, dorky, and just fun to be around. You wouldn't think any of those things by looking at him. Maybe he intentionally dressed that way for that reason. But Riley was really glad to have gotten to know him.
She turned away from the door and set down her bag on the kitchen counter. Pants didn't greet her as usual, which was strange. Riley tried spotting him in the living room but he wasn't there. The tv was still running, playing some news channel-
Riley frowned, instantly on alert. She hadn't put the tv on before leaving the house. And the absence of Pants was nothing like the cat. Where was her pet? Why was her tv on? Who had been in her house?
The bowl where she'd put some extra cash for emergencies was emptied. Someone had stolen that too. She didn't know if the robber was still here, but she would damn well make sure they wouldn't be any longer.
The brunette quietly reached for the gun in her purse, undoing the safety and holding it by her side. The air was deathly still, save for the quiet sounds of the tv still continuing to play. "Pants?" She called out experimentally in a normal voice. It was best not to alert whoever was still here, if they were, that she was suspicious. "Where are you, little buddy?"
She heard a muffled meow coming from the direction of her bathroom. It echoed inside the room, and small scratching noises on the door made her realize they locked him in there. How dare they. They could trespass on her house, steal her stuff, but how dare they trap her cat like that. This was inexcusable.
Riley made her way over to the bathroom, trying the door experimentally. It was locked, and opened to reveal the distraught cat inside, looking up at her in fright. She knelt and scratched behind his ears. "How'd you get in here, Pants? What happened?"
Despite her visual distraction, RIley's ears were perked up to pick up any sound from behind her. There was nothing. She narrowed her eyes, standing with one last pat on Pants' head. "Come on, let's go lay down." She said sweetly, still playing up the illusion just in case.
Leaving the bathroom, Riley slowly made her way towards the bedroom, gun raised just a little in preparation. The door was closed, as she'd left it, but that didn't mean-
Riley was thrown into the opposite wall when the hall closet door burst open beside her with the weight of a full grown man. "Ugh!" She grunted when she hit the hard wall, the grip on her gun loosening enough for it to drop from her grasp. Her shock was enough for her attacker to catch her in a choke hold. Riley started to panic, breathing faster until she felt a cloth forced against her mouth. Most likely chloroform.
Riley stopped breathing entirely, holding her breath and blinding swinging her limbs in an attempt to ward off the man.
"перестань болтать, ты сука." He man muttered angrily, but she couldn't understand what he meant. Somewhere in the back of her mind she identified it as Russian, but there were more pressing matters to attend to.
Her lungs on fire as the seconds stretched from lack of breathing, one of Riley's legs swung back at just the right angle to catch the man in the crotch. He grunted out painfully, removing his hands from her to nurse his injured manhood.
She took a deep breath now that the cloth was away from her face, and scrambled for her gun. However, the man wouldn't be discouraged so easily. He caught her foot and dragged her down the hall away from her weapon. She grit her teeth, desperately trying to free herself.
Her small stature and his bigger frame proved to be too much for her to fight against, plus another man appeared from her bedroom, joining her first attacker in holding her in place. The cloth reappeared in front of her face, and despite her best effort the rising panic was her downfall. She found herself greedily breathing in air try to replenish what she'd lost, and in doing so fell deeper and deeper into the black as her consciousness faded.
Wrench stood there another moment after she went inside, tossing around the scenario in his head if he were to go in there and just…ugh, he didn't know. Kiss her out of nowhere? That wouldn't be romantic at all. In fact, it was much more likely to earn him a punch to the face than anything else.
Wrench shook his head and descended the stairs towards the car. Marcus had said something before, about how he was always one to take risks. Never before had he been hesitant to take a chance at something that wouldn't work. An op that was likely to end in injury and/or death? Hell, bring it on. But this…was that same mindset even remotely a good idea? Would that scare her away?
The last thing he wanted to do was mess this up like he had with Cara. He was legitimately trying, and he wouldn't forgive himself if his usual attitude was the cause of it all falling apart. Wrench kicked at a rock on the sidewalk, hearing it skitter across the concrete until it settled in the nearby grass.
Wrench idly turned on the com channel, wondering what the others were up to. "Yo, M. How's the Bratva angle coming along?"
"Not bad, but damn. I've seen one too many sex toys to ever want to see one again. Way too many." Wrench could just imagine his shudder, and shook his head.
"Most people would count themselves lucky to get to see a glimpse of a porn film studio, you know."
"Aww, come on. You're no fun. Imagine all the ideas for future encounters!"
"I'd really rather not…but listen. Where are you at right now?"
"Just dropped Riley off at home. Why?"
Marcus laughed knowingly. "Oh, I see how it is."
"What?" He asked. "I just gave her a ride home. Nothing more."
"Huh. Ok. Alright. If that's all it was."
Wrench displayed two annoyed commas on his mask, even though the other hacker couldn't even see them. "Marcus." He said in warning.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm just playing. How are you two, anyway?"
Wrench sighed, unsure of what to say. "Well, it's…complicated…"
His mind was so preoccupied with his thoughts and the conversation, he didn't even register the half a dozen armed agents surrounding him.
"Hold it right there!" A guy yelled, and Wrench jerked to face him. One look at the various guns pointed at him and he knew he couldn't escape from this. There were too many people, and they were too close already. Pissed off that he'd been caught in this position, Wrench held up his hands in cooperation.
"I'm not doing anything!" He said, trying to back away slowly.
"Wrench? What's going on?" He heard Marcus ask in his ear, but he wasn't in a position to respond. The armed agents weren't in the mood to wait for him.
"Get on the ground, now!" One of them yelled, walking forward with his gun pointed at his chest.
"I'm just…walking my cat?" He tried, more to be a smartass than anything. He couldn't resist. Instantly, one of the guys behind him tackled him to the ground, shoving his face into the grass. He grunted from the impact and tried standing to run away, but the weight of whoever had tackled him settled on his back, and his hands were forced into handcuffs. The metal dug into his skin uncomfortably.
"Wrench, say something, man. What the hell's going on?" Marcus tried again, but Wrench couldn't speak.
They roughly jerked him to his feet again, pushing him towards one of their black vans. He was just glad his earpiece was still on, because DedSec would be able to easily track him that way.
The next thing Riley knew, she was strapped in a chair in some sort of warehouse-like room. It was wide and spacious, and completely concrete. The windows high above on the wall let light filter through, but they were foggy and dirty, making it difficult to see through.
The room was large and echoey, meaning she heard every footstep as one of the two thugs who'd kidnapped her paced the floor. She must have made an involuntary noise as she roused, because one spoke up to the other.
"эй, она бодрствует."
"о времени." The other replied, crossing his arms over his chest. Riley looked up when they both approached, staring down at her with disgust. There was another foldable chair sat in front of her, and one of them used it to face her at eye level.
"About time you woke up." He said in a thick accent. "We are the FBI. We have a few questions for you."
Her head was killing her, no doubt from the chloroform wearing off, and the scuffle from her apartment. She said nothing, not believing their statement one bit. For one, they hadn't flashed any sort of official badge or identification to prove they were the authorities, and no FBI agent would be dressing like a Bratva gang member, for another.
Her extended silence seemed to aggravate them, and her head was jerked to the side from the backhand that the thug send across her face. She tensed up from shock, the sting delaying for a second before radiating across her face. That hurt like a bitch.
The FBI generally didn't physically interrogate their suspects like this either. Another tally on the 'Not-FBI' board.
"Start talking. Where did you hide your information?"
Even through her anger, she couldn't help but frown in confusion. "Information?"
Riley grunted as another backhand was sent her way. "You don't get to ask questions! Where is the investigation information? Where did you hide it?"
Her confusion left her speechless, earning her another slap. Reflex tears were streaming down her face at this point, and she was sure to have imprints on her cheeks, but what the hell was he talking about? Her investigation? Was this not about DedSec?
Riley was glad she'd finally cleaned up her desk the weekend before, putting the information she'd dug up so far onto a digital copy and tossing the physical into the trash. She'd needed to reduce it to a compact size she could bring with her when she left San Francisco, but she supposed now it meant it was out of Bratva hands.
…which, by the way, why did they want her information?
"Do you understand what trouble you will be facing if you do not talk?" He said again in that thick accent, raising his hand to hit her again. Riley prepared for the smack before it landed, and she didn't even make a sound this time.
Riley glared at them silently, not bothering to give them the satisfaction of looking scared. On the inside, she was terrified. She'd always played with the thought that this job could be dangerous, but she hadn't ever imagined it would lead to this. When she'd first started working there, each new employee had been given special instructions if they ever found themselves in this situation.
Well, she couldn't remember a damn word of it now that it actually had come to it. Riley had to go off her own instincts now, and hoped that somehow DedSec would figure out she'd been kidnapped. Hopefully Wrench tried to call her and would find it weird that she wasn't answering. She could only hope.
Wrench. Was he ok? Hopefully he made it away from her apartment safe before she'd been kidnapped. She'd hate herself if he got dragged into this because of her.
Her mind went to her phone, which was no longer in her pocket. In fact, she didn't know where it was. However, her long hair hid the earpiece that was still in her ear. Miraculously, it hadn't fallen out during the brawl at her apartment. If she could just reach up and turn it on-
Another smack across her face stopped that train of thought, and she looked up to see the Bratva member smiling viciously. "You do not want to talk? Fine. We have ways to make you wish you did."
The sound of a phone ringing cut off anything else the Russian was about to do, and the second brute who'd only observed up to that point pulled the loud device out of his pocket. "What?" He asked bluntly, walking a ways away from the other two. Riley stared after him in curiosity, wondering who he could have been talking to. There were several seconds of silence as he listened to whatever it was the other person was saying.
"No, she will not tell us…it was not at her apartment." Another long pause, and the Bratva member growled under his breath. "This is getting nowhere. Torture will make her talk." He said matter of factly.
Riley swallowed down the fear that rose at that word. Torture. She'd never been tortured before. The movies always tried to make it as dramatic and sickening as possible, but she had a feeling the real thing was so much worse than what the screen could portray. Her toes curled in her shoes, wondering what exactly kind of torture they had in mind. There were many different kinds, and her being a female meant there was one in particular that they could resort to.
Riley didn't know if she could withstand something like that.
The person on the phone was yelling now, and she could hear the tone, but not the words. The Bratva member held it away from his ear because of how loud they were.
"So fucking loud!" He complained, sighing and turning towards her. "Alright. We will do it your way. For now." Riley stared at the phone, wishing she knew who was on the other end. The Bratva member shook his head, laughing cruelly. "You payed us to do the job, so we'll do it. As long as you get the data, what does it matter? Leave it to us."
He hung up the phone without waiting for an answer, then nodded towards his companion "Please…continue." He said with a slow gesture of his hand.
The other Bratva member grinned, making a statement of cracking his knuckles in anticipation. Riley glanced between the both of them, hoping she'd be able to withstand whatever they had in store for her.ns 188.8.131.52da2