The whole gang gathered around the tv screen, watching the events of that night transpire on the video that Wrench took using the camera rifle. Marcus' back was to the camera, with Riley facing them. They all watched as she gestured towards the city.
"I'm tired of the undeserving taking what they want and exploiting individual after individual to get it." She said, and Marcus raised a hand to calm her down.
"You're preaching to the choir, Riley." He replied, and Marcus paused the video. Turning towards the rest, he silently spread his hands, as if implying 'What else is there to say?'
"Could be pretending." Wrench added pessimistically, still playing Devil's advocate, but he was slowly coming to terms that perhaps Riley was genuine. It wouldn't hurt to keep up the one dissenting opinion though. A bit of debate was good, and made sure they didn't follow blindly into bad decisions.
"I doubt it." Marcus shook his head, then pointed towards the screen, stuck paused on Riley's determined expression. "I mean, look at that. She was nearly shaking. You can't fake something like that so easily."
"It could be, of course." Josh interjected, eyes glued to the screens up above. "Very difficult, but not impossible for an experienced actress or pathological liar-"
"Josh, she's 23. I can't see someone that young having that much acting experience." Sitara said, shrugging nonchalantly. Then, she gestured to Marcus. "Let's see the rest before we make any decisions though."
Marcus hit the play button and the video started up again. The camera shook slightly to the side, probably from Wrench shifting positions. "It's all well and good that you want to help the problem, but what's in it for DedSec? This proposal is sounding very one-sided at the moment."
They watched her try fixing her hair, and Wrench zeroed in on her face, searching for any inkling of deceit. She nodded slowly. "Fair enough. In exchange for the information, I'd be willing to publicly support DedSec through my personal blog."
Marcus felt Sitara shift in place excitedly, already salivating at the prospect of more followers or influence for her brand. He hid a smirk, but drew his attention back towards the screen.
"A personal blog? How big of an audience are we talking?"
"It gets several thousand hits per day. It's fairly influential in northern California." They all saw the smile of pride on her face.
"Oh, I'm liking her already." Sitara practically purred, leaning comfortably over the couch and linking her fingers together. "I think we'll get along just fine."
They watched through the rest of the video, but at that point the group of hackers had already made their decisions. Sitara was the first to speak up, as Marcus knew she would.
"I say we take her offer. Think of all the exposure we could get on a blog page that huge!" She gestured wide, smiling just as wide. "It could do wonders for our public image, first of all, not to mention a boost in our processing power if they download the app too."
Marcus turned to Josh, noticing he hadn't said much in terms of which side of the debate he was on. The green-hooded hacker noticed and explained. "I got a look at her coding while tracking down her information. She's pretty good. Could use more refining in some elements, but not terrible. I think she'd be valuable to the team."
Lastly, he turned to Wrench, already seeing the crossed arms and defensive posturing. Marcus mimicked the pose and grinned. "Well? Spit it out." Obviously he had something he wanted to say, but seeing as everyone else had already agreed, perhaps he felt saying what was on his mind wouldn't be welcomed. Marcus wasn't having it. Every person would have a voice, no matter the opinion.
Wrench glanced around at the group, seeing that all eyes were on him again, and he sighed, expression turning into blinking eyes. "You're right, she could be a good member to the team." The eyes changed to small apostrophes, indicating slight irritation. "But all I'm saying is she could also have other reasons for wanting to get close to us. After Horatio," he gestured over to the memorialized wall, "I just think we should be more cautious with who we trust."
The others grew quiet when Horatio was mentioned, but Wrench had a point. Realizing he'd brought down the mood, Wrench pushed off the edge of the couch and shrugged uncaringly. "But hey, why not give it a shot? After all, if she turns out to be a problem, well, that's why you've got me around." He pointed two thumbs towards himself, eyes changing into '^' symbols, before sauntering off towards his workbench again.
Marcus caught Sitara's and Josh's eyes, before smiling with content. Seems they'd reached a consensus.
Riley slapped the alarm on her clock to snooze for the second time and groaned into the comforter. She shifted positions, pulling the blankets higher up her shoulder to ward off the chill air of her room. Under the blankets was so warm, she didn't want to leave. Finally cracking an eye and peering above the warm covers, she spotted the time and closed them again, wishing this was some cruel joke.
It took her several seconds to work up the effort to push herself up and out of bed, but she finally did, stretching with a moan after doing so. Then, for several more seconds, she slumped there and pondered how worth it it would be to call in sick or something. Riley was not really a morning person, and she hadn't gotten much sleep anyways. Actually, it surprised her that she'd gotten any at all. A few hours was unexpected.
At first, she thought it had all been a dream, and the meeting at the pier had never happened. But then, one glance over at the jacket tossed across the back of her desk chair, where she'd thrown it after getting home was the only reassurance she needed.
Riley slid down from the bed and stood groggily, rubbing at her eyes and blindly walking towards the bathroom to shower. The sound of a shower was sort of uncomfortable, but she knew as soon as she got in, that she wouldn't want to leave it. Funny how those things worked.
The brunette nearly tripped on Pants on the way there, and the cat meowed his protest before skirting away towards the living room. "Sorry, buddy." She murmured, gesturing a quick apology as he disappeared behind some furniture.
Deciding that he wasn't grievously wounded from having his tail kicked at, Riley entered the bathroom and started on her usual showering routine. She plugged her phone into a small speaker sitting on the counter, playing whatever was on her Spotify playlist, then undressed.
The music played just loud enough to hear over the rushing water, but not too loud that the neighboring apartments would file a noise complaint. She'd quickly found out that people around here weren't very accommodating when it came to music in the morning.
The hot water felt nice against her skin and, as predicted, Riley took a little longer than she probably should have getting clean. By the time she stepped out of her shower, it was uncomfortably close to the time she needed to leave for work. Dressing in a hurry, Riley tried multitasking by alternating both hair and makeup in the mirror, to a somewhat effective extent.
Her phone vibrated on the desk, and she peeked at it while applying mascara. It was a text from an unrecognized number. Her stomach did a little flip. Of course, Riley was certain DedSec would be quick with an answer, but this was far sooner than she expected one. Shoving the mascara wand back into the container, her fingers were swiping and unlocking her phone in record time.
You've got a deal, Riley.
She perked up, unable to help the pleased smile on her face. Today was shaping up to be great! She sent a quick reply, thanking them for accepting the offer, and saying she'd start writing the draft of her next blog post that night. Chest tight and giddy with excitement, Riley got through the rest of her routine faster than she thought possible. Makeup done and hair mostly dry, she tossed on her shoes and headed for the door.
"A DedSec follower tipped us off to some inconsistent activity with their ProviBlue accounts. She says a premium for a program she didn't sign up for showed up on her statement."
Marcus and Wrench leaned in closer to Josh's screen, seeing the email sent to them. "Maybe it was just a mistake on ProviBlue's end? I'm sure it happens sometimes."
"Maybe," Josh admitted skeptically, "but she's not the only one this has happened to recently." A few keystrokes later brought up four other emails of similar contents, all from DedSec members.
Wrench's mask displayed two 'at' symbols, and he leaned back with crossed arms. "I smell some shady shit going on."
Marcus nodded, agreeing that five people in the last week was a bit suspicious. "Alright, we'll need to get access to ProviBlue's accounts to see just how many accounts this is happening to." Standing, he paused, then nodded with a knowing smile. "And I know exactly how we're gonna do it."
There was a brief silence, as Josh and Wrench connected the dots together. Josh seemed content with the plan of action, but the masked man cocked his head and shrugged with uncertainty. "You sure? We just agreed to work with her last night, and this type of thing wasn't part of the deal we made."
"That's true but…we could at least ask. If she says no, I can always go there and hack in myself. It would just take more time." Marcus couldn't see the harm in it. "This'll be a test run of sorts. You know, to establish trust with one another." He added as an afterthought.
Wrench gave a sigh but nodded. "Alright, but don't say I didn't warn you if things don't end up how we want them to. We don't know if she's even up for it yet."
Riley was nearly falling asleep that afternoon at her desk. It was right after lunch, and the afternoon heat of the office, plus the feeling of fullness from having eaten was lulling her to rest. Eyes drooping, she propped her head on her hand, elbow supporting her on the desk. At least it was a slow day that day, because Riley honestly didn't know if she'd have the energy to answer call after call at that moment.
She could hear Dan in his cubicle talking to someone. It didn't sound like a customer, because if the language he was quietly using was any indication, he'd have been fired long ago. Most likely one of his buddies or something. At least he wasn't antagonizing her for another date. That's all Riley cared about.
She'd brought in her laptop that day, intent on fulfilling her promise to DedSec. A rough outline of a blog post sat half-finished in her files. At least she'd gotten the main brunt of it out of the way. The finer details were the most fun to do and would come later, but actually setting up the format and sectioning out the page was not her favorite. Better to get it out of the way first.
Riley caught herself before she could actually fall asleep, jerking in her seat when she realized just how close she was to doing so. Reaching up slowly, her arms stretched both painfully and blissfully. She groaned quietly, letting her limbs go limp again as they fell to her sides. This day was slogging by, and it was only 1:00 in the afternoon.
A buzzing on her desk alerted her to a text message. She idly reached over and opened it, practically not even looking at the screen to do so. Rubbing at her eyes, it took a moment to read the words.
We might need your help with something, Riley. Some of our people have brought up concerns about ProviBlue, and we need some info. You up for it?
Some of her fatigue was washed away at seeing it was from DedSec. With a precursory glance behind her to make sure no one was there, she replied immediately.
What exactly did you need?
When you apply for a rewards or credit card program, it requires an authorization signature, right?
Of course. They keep an electronic copy on file.
Perfect. Would you mind getting us a copy of all the accounts that have the program active? And any accounts that owe any premium fees?
Riley paused, staring at the screen. That was a lot of info. This hadn't exactly been what she expected when it came to partnering with DedSec, though she supposed she shouldn't be surprised at all. No shit they'd want to reach out to people in opportune places to get their hands on more information. Of course, she didn't really see why they needed that specific list, not seeing a connection to some sort of scandal that way.
And it wasn't that Riley wasn't willing. She didn't like the corporation as much as they did. She just hoped the higher-ups wouldn't notice and terminate her employment for stealing information. Regardless of the risk, she shot back a reply.
Sure, I'll see what I can do. Any specific format you need it on?
A USB should do fine.
With another glance behind her, she grabbed the USB from her bag and plugged it into her system. Thankfully, the premium accounts weren't out of her jurisdiction when it came to the company files, and fees owed was a universal database within the company. Accessing either system wouldn't be overly suspicious.
The computer recognized the USB insert, and Riley navigated over to the files for the accounts that owed an outstanding fee. She filtered the search to only those that owed a fee on a premium program, highlighting and dragging the info over to the USB. It took several moments to transfer, and Riley felt a pit in her stomach as someone came closer in the hall. She minimized the window and went back to looking bored. The woman laughed into her headset as she walked passed the cubicle and down the rest of the hall. Riley relaxed again and brought up the window once more.
Once those files transferred over, she switched over to the programs available to ProviBlue account holders. There was a search feature to find specific accounts by name or card number, but Riley also knew she could see the whole database by typing a certain code into the bar. A moment later and a long list of names and accounts appeared. She similarly highlighted and dragged the list over to the USB icon on her external drive and waited for it to transfer.
Thankfully her USB was of a larger size, able to handle the amount of data she'd just stolen. Even so, it was still 98% full. She was lucky it could hold it all. She ejected the small device and tucked it safely into her bag again, exiting out of the program to resume her normal work screen.
There was a small thrill of doing something she wasn't supposed settling in her chest. Ignoring it, Riley took a breath and tried looking as normal as possible. She grabbed her phone a moment later, nearly forgetting to inform them.
Alright, I've got it all.
Great. One of our members will grab it from you after you're off work.
Any specific place I should go?
We'll let you know later. In the meantime, delete these messages so they can't be traced.
No problem, will do.
As instructed, the brunette deleted the texts she'd received thus far from the DedSec member. It didn't occur to her until then that she didn't even know his name. Or her name. Scratch that, she didn't even know if who she was speaking to was the same person she'd met face to face the other day. It sure seemed like it was, but one never knew. Shrugging, she set her phone down and waited for the rest of her shift to be over.
Riley shut off the engine to her car and looked around. The parking garage was low-lit, despite the sun still being low in the sky outside. The basement level didn't have too many cars around, and it gave her this eerie shill down her spine. No matter how trustworthy these DedSec people were, and no matter how much she didn't believe they would, Riley couldn't help but feel like this was the setting of her impending murder.
The brunette looked down at the phone in her lap, reading the instructions again just to be sure.
Go to the parking garage on 2300 and Sunnyside Parkway. Drive to the basement level. One of our members will be there.
She looked around, but didn't see any one vehicle that stood out from the rest. Shaking her head because she felt ridiculous, Riley grabbed her bag and opened the driver door, stepping out of the safety of her car. The door slamming shut echoed across the garage, setting her hair on the back of her neck on end.
She aimlessly walked around her car, waiting for someone to meet her, before finally resorting to leaning against one of the concrete pillars supporting the structure. She could faintly hear the sound of traffic above, and despite being underground, somehow it sounded like wind was constantly rushing through the place.
Over the consistent white noise of the garage, Riley heard the sound of a truck approaching. She looked around, not really able to pinpoint where it was coming from, but before long the red pick-up rounded the corner and made a beeline for where she stood.
Clutching her bag a little tighter, Riley made sure her outward posture was calm as the driver pulled into a spot two spaces away from her car. The windows were tinted, meaning she couldn't see who it was inside.
The door opened, and the last person she expected to see stepped out, slamming it behind him. He was clad in a hoodie and spiked biker jacket, the sleeves rolled up to reveal several tattoos adorning his arms. His jeans were faded and ripped in various places. They appeared to be genuine wear and tear, not the fashionable kind that you found pre-ripped into the jeans in stores.
What was most striking, however, was the spiked leather mask that covered his face, two white X's on the front displaying his eyes. Riley couldn't help but stare, fascinated by the mask. To be honest, it was pretty damn cool.
He stopped several feet in front of her and crossed his arms. "You're Riley?" He asked, his voice obviously altered with a changer. It came out as a slightly-robotic, higher-pitched tone than what a normal voice would sound like.
"Uh, yeah." She said dumbly, too enthralled with the way the X's on his mask changed according to his emotions or speech or…whatever changed them. It was so cool. Then, remembering why she was there, she forcefully tore her gaze away and dug in her purse for the USB.
She held it out for him. "Here's all the info you asked for. If you need anything else, I can try to get it for you tomorrow."
He nodded and accepted the small device from her, inspecting it at all angles. "If we do, I'm sure Marcus will text you." He said offhandedly with a lofty gesture of his hand. Riley frowned slightly.
The man turned to her and cocked his head, the X's turning into exclamation points now. "The guy you met with yesterday? Tall, cool, and mysterious? That guy?"
Riley honestly thought that description fit the man in front of her better than who she met on the pier, but she wouldn't say that out loud. "Oh, ok. He didn't tell me his name."
The man sighed. "If we're gonna work with you, you might as well know our names." He replied, tucking the USB into his jacket pocket. Riley was having a hard time gauging his mood. The voice changer changed the pitch of his voice only slightly, but the mask prevented her from really seeing much of his face. The only indication was the eyes on his mask flickering between exclamation points to three dots. Was he annoyed that they were working together? Angry? Overjoyed? She couldn't tell.
Before she could ask what his name was, he turned back to her and his mask took on two '#' symbols. He took a step forward, so she took a step backwards to keep distance between them.
"Let me cut straight to the point." He warned, his offhanded tone from before changing into something more serious. "We've been burned in the past, and I don't want to see it happen again because we trusted the wrong person."
Riley said nothing as he pointed at her accusingly. "The rest of them seem to be really eager to trust you, but I want you to earn it first."
She nodded silently, feeling strangely emboldened by his words. He was just trying to protect his friends. Riley couldn't fault him for that. In her line of work, trusting the wrong person could ruin your entire assignment, or even put you in danger. She imagined the same applied to DedSec.
Realizing he came off as a lot more threatening than he probably meant to, Riley watched him take a step back. "You won't have to worry about me. I guess it can come off as suspicious because I'll be using the data you guys provide, but we both want the same goal. I wouldn't jeopardize that."
"Hmm." He grunted, looking away. Then, after a moment of silence, he shrugged. "It's not you specifically I distrust. You just need to understand that if you become a problem for us…" He turned back to her with angry slants for eyes. "…I'll make sure to fix it."
Knowing now that he was just passionate about protecting his friends and their operation, the threat wasn't as effective on her as it might have been. She gave a small smile and nodded. With that, he seemed satisfied and walked off back towards the truck.
Riley looked up in realization that she didn't even get his name. She stepped forward as he was about to open the truck door. "Wait, what's your name? You never said."
He turned back to look at her over his shoulder. "Wrench."
Riley smiled, nodding in acceptance of his strange nickname. "Alright, Wrench. I just had to tell you that your mask is definitely the coolest thing I've ever seen. And I've seen the cosplays at San Diego Comic Con, so that's saying something."
Wrench's mask changed into three dots on either side. There were a few moments of silence as he just looked at her, but then they changed into a happy expression of '^.^' and he cocked his head. "Thanks."
Riley watched as he climbed into the truck and started the engine. The window rolled down part way, and Wrench shot her a peace sign in goodbye. That expression of happiness was still on his mask. She raised a hand, and the window rolled back up to hide him from view. The truck backed out of the parking spot and shot away towards the exit.
The brunette stood there for a few more moments until the sound of Wrench's vehicle faded away entirely. Releasing the breath she didn't know she'd been holding, Riley finally dug her keys out of her pocket and entered her own car.
The engine started up and she peeled away towards home, not spotting the truck again the entire way there. And Riley would't admit to intentionally looking for it, even though she honestly thought Wrench was super mysterious. And unfortunately for her, Riley had always had a thing for mysterious guys. Damn her.
Wrench walked into the hackerspace feeling…strange. He still didn't want to outright trust Riley because he wasn't 100% positive of her intentions, but at the same time she was-
"So, how'd it go?" Marcus interrupted, draping his arm around Wrench's shoulders as he walked beside him.
"As planned." The masked man said, flashing a happy expression. He pulled the USB from his pocket and set it in front of Josh at his desk. "That should be everything."
Josh nodded, plugging the device into his desktop. "I'll start looking through the files and matching them to signature authorizations." He leaned closer to his computer, effectively cutting the conversation there.
Wrench didn't mind and walked back to his workspace by the 3D printer, with Marcus following behind him closely. He had a feeling he knew what his friend wanted to talk about, and finally sighed, leaning back against his desk to face Marcus. "What?"
"Don't 'what' me. You know. Thoughts on our newest partner?"
Wrench was tempted to continue coming off as pessimistic about her, because a small part of him still was, but for the most part, that would be a lie. Deciding to be honest about it, he shrugged.
"She's cool." He accompanied the statement with a happy expression, just to ease Marcus' mind somewhat. But that apparently didn't seem to be enough for him.
"Hmm, just cool huh?"
Wrench gestured outward with his hands. "I don't know, man. I met her for like 5 minutes. What else did you expect?"
Marcus had that infernal smirk on his face that said he knew more than what Wrench was telling him. "She complimented your mask, didn't she?"
Wrench scoffed, turning his back to his friend. "So what if she did? Chicks dig the mask."
"Riigghhtt…well, I'll let you get back to it. If you're lucky, you might see her again soon."
Marcus eventually walked away when it became clear that Wrench would ignore that last part. He shook his head in frustration before grabbing the nearest piece to a motherboard he was tinkering with to hack into one of those giant cranes that were scattered about the city.
Pants was already waiting by the door for her when she arrived home, no doubt offended that she was late. His dinner time had come and gone, and now he was impatiently meowing for her to hurry up and feed him.
Riley shook her head and chuckled. "I'm sorry, I had something important to do. I didn't forget about you."
Another angry meow conveyed his doubts, and he jumped up onto the counter out of spike. Predictably, she immediately picked him up and set him on the ground again. He circled her legs, continuing to meow.
"Ok, I get that you're mad, but honestly. There's no need for this temper tantrum. You're a big boy, you can handle an hour without food." So saying, she headed for her bedroom to change into something more comfortable.
Pants followed her the whole way, letting her know that no, he couldn't have survived another second of her being away, and that she should be ashamed for making him wait so long. Riley had a distinct thought that perhaps she was interpreting more emotion from her pet than what he actually felt. Maybe she was personifying him way more than what was normal. Turning to see his upturned nose, haughty stance, and low, grumbling meows, she dashed the thought aside and decided that he was actually just legitimately an asshole.
She changed into her pajamas and finally fed the impatient cat. He munched happily, yet begrudgingly, away at his food while she turned on the tv and navigated to the newest episode of her favorite cop show. When it came to action, horror, or adventure movies, as well as cheesy cop drama shows and psychological thrillers, Riley was a sucker.
Propping her feet up on the ottoman, tray of microwave food in her lap, she settled in for the night to enjoy some time for herself. She decided that she'd look over the recordings of the day over the weekend, knowing there was little chance of anything significant being in the information she'd captured. Riley deserved a break every once in awhile.
After some time, Pants finished his food and came looking for some cuddles. Riley had finished her food at that point and put it on the table beside the couch. Pants jumped up on the cushion beside her and then stepped onto her lap.
"Oh, now you want to be all friendly and nice?" She griped playfully. His purring rumbled against her chest as she pulled him closer to her. She cradled him to her chest, and he settled into a more comfortable position, resting his head against her.
"You know," she said gently, stroking under his chin in the way he liked, "for being an asshole, you're actually pretty cute and lovable."
He didn't reply other than to keep purring at her scratching.ns 184.108.40.206da2