Z3R0 - I've Got Questions | Penana

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Writer I-Dont-Like-I-Obsess
  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
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I've Got Questions
May 18, 2018
36 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!pSyZc8rtmlatnrxir0abposted on PENANA

Riley enjoyed her time at the hackerspace, getting to know the others and sharing a drink. This almost felt like an exclusive party, and she'd never been to something like that before. It was sort of awesome. The others had asked questions, genuinely wanting to get to know her, which was surreal in itself. The brunette wasn't used to that sort of thing.copyright protection23PENANAZCaC77pUrv

They lounged around the couch, some old action movie playing while they talked. It was more for background noise than anything. She doubted any of them were paying attention to it. Riley sure wasn't. In fact, most of her focus was on the masked hacker sitting on the other side of the couch, unable to shake the thought of how cool he was. Even under close scrutiny the mask still looked highly detailed and cared for. It must have been something he made himself. All that love and attention could have only come from him directly.copyright protection23PENANAUQnsQABh3Y

Riley tried not to be too obvious with her glances his way, but she honestly couldn't help it. Her weakness for mystery was too strong to resist trying to figure him out. He confused her. Solemn and thoughtful while not around the others, playful and sarcastic the next. Truly a curious man. Besides his nickname, he didn't seem partial to share any other personal information about himself. Which only served to interest her more. Who was the man behind the mask?copyright protection23PENANACes0GZi70s

Not too long after the movie ended and another one began to play, Sitara's phone chimed loudly. The others continued to talk in the meantime while she read the message. It seemed to have pertinent information, because she cleared her throat.copyright protection23PENANAi05sCdA172

"Hey, Marcus. You down for an op?" She asked, gaining the group's attention.copyright protection23PENANAx2SUvJu70y

Wrench groaned and threw up his hands in mock irritation. "Aw, Marcus gets to have all the fun. When do I get a turn?"copyright protection23PENANA5DNxDtxVAx

"Patience, Wrench." She sent him a gentle smile, chuckling to herself. "You can have the next one."copyright protection23PENANAoTytlaHWcP

They all heard him grumbling under his breath, most of the words were unintelligible though, so they all ignored him for the time being. Except for Riley, who watched him closely. His little tantrum was sort of…cute. Her mouth quirked up in a tiny smile. Marcus made a noise of approval which drew her attention away, and rubbed his hands together eagerly. "What have you got in mind?"copyright protection23PENANAYJRREmA9tA

Sitara held up her phone. "Kalie says she might have found an exploit for ProviBlue's ATMs." Then she looked over at Riley. "Know anything about something like that?"copyright protection23PENANAIzdv6RYEMy

The brunette shrugged, finishing a sip of her soda. "No, the ATMs are a separate department in the company. We don't really intermingle."copyright protection23PENANAcbsKFNVmK7

"Then this is probably a long shot but…you wouldn't happen to have any way to access their data, would you?"copyright protection23PENANAbIR3zwq9FU

Thinking about it then shrugging, Riley hummed. "Hmm…not really. I'd have to get the codes from either the security office or the mobile banking department. They keep them on servers separate from the rest of the company to prevent fraud or things of this nature." She grinned, amused. "Pretty sure they'd be able to figure out it was me who hacked in if I try."copyright protection23PENANAKotYTAQReC

Sitara nodded, accepting the answer without much disappointment. She hadn't expected a yes anyway, but it didn't hurt to ask. Her eyes turned back towards Marcus. "Let's hope the exploit works then. Wanna check it out?"copyright protection23PENANAqqOSbtG6Pq

"Oh, hell yeah. Send me her location, I'll go meet up with her." He stood from the couch and slung his messenger bag over his shoulder. Josh stood as well.copyright protection23PENANAe1955ICvSh

"I'll find the nearest machines for you to test it out." He said, heading back over to his computer. Riley had a sneaking suspicion he'd wanted to go back to his desk for awhile but didn't want to seem rude or something. All that was left was Sitara, Wrench, and herself.copyright protection23PENANAqDFTCzusqI

"What do you plan to do with the exploit?" Riley turned to the female hacker, who shrugged casually. The answer didn't appear to concern her much.copyright protection23PENANA5R9TKkmrqc

"If it works?" Sitara grinned smugly and shifted in her place on the couch. "We'll go full Robin Hood. Steal from those uppity fucks and give to people the system is screwing over."copyright protection23PENANARFe1LjKnPC

"Vigilanteism is so in right now." Wrench added, raising his drink in a mock toast. "Think they'll proclaim us as heroes in the news?"copyright protection23PENANAFggl9TUEll

"Doubtful." Sitara chuckled.copyright protection23PENANAmrdwlXQHoh

Riley was relieved to hear their intentions. For as much good as DedSec did, there could always be hidden problems Riley wasn't aware of. Perhaps they stole for themselves when they wanted to, for no other purpose than personal gain. Riley didn't feel bad about the companies losing money or taking a hit. She just didn't want innocent bystanders or citizens that weren't involved to be caught in the crossfire.copyright protection23PENANAUgW9iHs25i

Riley checked the time on her phone and raised her eyebrows. She'd been hanging out with them for several hours already. Had it really been that long? Damn, time had flown by while she'd been learning all there was to DedSec.copyright protection23PENANAFKyV5IP0ma

"I should actually get going." She said, rising from the couch with a stretch. "I've got lot to do today, unfortunately. Plus, Pants gets grouchy if I'm away all day."copyright protection23PENANAlJCygXw6FV

"Ok, I have to meet Pants one day. He sounds like such a sweetheart." Sitara laughed, then paused. "Hmm, we'll want to have someone drive you back. It know it's a hassle, but for right now we want the location of the hackerspace to stay secret."copyright protection23PENANAoAckJu2cw8

"I'll take her." Wrench raised a hand, standing gracefully. He gestured dramatically for her to follow and she stood as well. "Right this way, madam." The man said in as posh an accent as he could manage, proceeding to give a half bow.copyright protection23PENANAubS37YMWY9

"Well, thank you sir." Riley gave him a courteous nod and met him at the foot of the stairs.copyright protection23PENANA7jSJS9Hofn

Marcus had left behind the blindfold for them to use once she left, and Wrench returned from retrieving it. "Could you help me with that? I had some trouble before." She said, turning so she faced away from Wrench. She felt him approach behind her.copyright protection23PENANAkEXwZG01Tw

"You bet! Now," he said, placing the blindfold over her eyes. His voice was soft right next to her ear, making her spine tingle slightly, "should we decide on a safe word?"copyright protection23PENANAanI2rP0dLZ

"Gross, Wrench. I'd rather not know about your freakish kinks!" Sitara called from the couch, making Riley blush. She couldn't help but chuckle despite the small amount of embarrassment. Wrench seemed to have that effect.copyright protection23PENANAmTjfCbokAE

"At least take me to dinner first." Was her bold reply, feeling the blindfold tighten around her head. Normally she wasn't the type to openly flirt with someone she didn't know all that well, but Wrench's playful attitude helped to coax her own dorky personality to start to show.copyright protection23PENANAHUiFrimrjf

He hummed his amusement, happy that she wasn't offended and was playing along. "Nice to have another person around here that can take a joke." He said, his voice moving to be in front of her now.copyright protection23PENANAYtDGw4wxii

"Alright…" Sitara interrupted again, hoping they'd get a move on so she didn't have to listen to Wrench's weird flirting any further. She knew how he could be once he got going. "The lady's got places to be!"copyright protection23PENANAwFbQUO2j8C

Riley adjusted the cloth so it covered her eyes in a more comfortable manner. "Ok, the stairs are gonna be a bit of a problem."copyright protection23PENANAYQxhvYzRqT

"Just take it nice and slow." He instructed, gently guiding her by the shoulder. She was grateful that he didn't rush her or push too hard. Her hands were stretched outwards just in case. Her shoes thumped against the very bottom step. "Actually, I have a better and much easier plan." He suddenly said.copyright protection23PENANA6onJ5TOBr6

"What?" She inquired, biting back the yelp that threatened to escape her lips when she felt him pick her up by her shoulders and knees. Riley instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck to balance herself. The spikes of his vest dug into her sides, but there wasn't much to be done about that. She felt him begin to ascend the stairs with her in tow.copyright protection23PENANATYL4OGSQZ1

"Maybe give me a bit of warning next time?" She suggested, feeling and hearing his low chuckle next to her ear.copyright protection23PENANAtYR1fm0Odq

"Ah, but the surprise is half the fun!"copyright protection23PENANAHkP43UYRvq

She jostled in his grip with each step. It didn't dawn on her until he'd reached the top and set her down that the easiest and most logical solution would have been to wait until getting to the top of the stairs before putting the blindfold on. She was about to say as much, but he was already opening the door to the building Marcus had brought her into to begin with.copyright protection23PENANAYpoJtdpm3p

"Through here." Wrench said kindly, keeping a hand on her back to keep her centered.copyright protection23PENANAnxneyCByrP

Riley remembered that there were people probably in the building watching her being lead outside. She smiled and laughed to herself. Oh well, they probably didn't know who she was anyway. It wasn't like they'd be able to identify her at a later date. What was the harm?copyright protection23PENANAY89NdcIc4e

Wrench must have noticed her grin. "What's so funny? Do tell."copyright protection23PENANAC2D1M7ebth

Riley shook her head. "Nothing specific, I just probably look really ridiculous right now."copyright protection23PENANABRPY6nBHW2

"Trust me, we've had way stranger things pass through here."copyright protection23PENANAwUbGIpSrBX

"I don't know whether to be relieved or concerned." She admitted, earning a chuckle from the masked hacker.copyright protection23PENANAFeZifLptXT

"Perhaps a bit of both?"copyright protection23PENANALyLAxSX9zT

She was quickly growing to like the sound of that laugh. Riley caught herself, wondering where all these juvenile thoughts were coming from. God, she'd known him for less than a week and already she was thinking this way.copyright protection23PENANAb6OnMxMFYn

Maybe she'd gone too long without being in a relationship. Her last one hadn't been all that great. Deprivation from pleasant human interaction, that was all this was, Riley tried to convince herself.copyright protection23PENANACDCCWRomkm

Of course, it also didn't help that Wrench was the living personification of mystery and punk. Both traits Riley could help but feel attracted to. Plus, his personality was something akin to a video game or movie character. Sometimes she couldn't be certain if it were all an act or if it was actually his true personality.copyright protection23PENANAg6V1GsTEBt

Her thoughts were interrupted by her hands hitting a surface in front of her. The sudden obstacle was jarring, and she took a step backward.copyright protection23PENANAyNAnanVW3T

"It's just the door. Nothing to be afraid of." Wrench teased, pushing it open himself and encouraging her forward. Her feet made contact with the concrete again, and he lead her over to assumably the same van that Marcus had brought her here in. The brunette heard the door open, and Wrench's hand pressed between her shoulders.copyright protection23PENANAkGxWiuOHQ9

"Watch your step, unless you'd rather I pick you up again?" He suggested eagerly, but Riley smiled, pushing him away with her hand.copyright protection23PENANA36fY8Wr2A3

"I think I can manage." She navigated with her foot to find the interior of the van, before sliding herself inside. She fumbled to find the seatbelt after Wrench shut the door, then climbed into the driver's seat beside her.copyright protection23PENANAw9R7w1urYy

"Should I be worried for my safety with you driving?" Riley asked, only half joking. He came across as the reckless type. Being blindfolded and unable to see their surroundings wasn't helping her confidence either.copyright protection23PENANAljeTgwn5ee

"Pff, worry? No need. You're in capable hands." He assured, and she heard him crack his knuckles before turning on the engine. "Ready?"copyright protection23PENANAeikuhtqIw1

"As I'll ever be."copyright protection23PENANAM2bE9HFE9E

"You could sound a bit more confident than that." He said lightly, throwing the van into drive and launching them forward from the curb. Riley clutched onto the door handle for dear life, hoping that she actually made it back to her car in one piece.copyright protection23PENANAcvYqofXMkb

Wrench pulled up to the curb of Union Square, placing the van in park. "We have arrived at your destination. Thank you for traveling with DedSec." He said robotically, his mask displaying two '#' symbols.copyright protection23PENANA0ytl3LOttk

He saw her smile from behind the blindfold, hands already reaching up to undo the tie. "I can take this off now, right?"copyright protection23PENANAvgnGUwoAby

"I mean, if you don't like wandering around in public with a blindfold, then sure." He approved, watching her blink to adjust to the new light intensity. Riley smoothed down her hair and handed him the cloth. He tossed it into the back carelessly.copyright protection23PENANAfn3eNstLeN

"Thanks for bringing me back." She said, turning that smile onto him. Wrench displayed a happy expression in return. That smile was pretty damn cute, he had to admit.copyright protection23PENANAXemrApcoTG

"Sure thing, just be sure to give us a good Yelp review." He flashed her a wink, and she looked away with a smile. The brunette grabbed her bag and opened the passenger door.copyright protection23PENANAJpW65RDusO

"I'll see you guys around, I guess?"copyright protection23PENANA2Hc6VZyoLM

Wrench pointed at her with two finger guns, mask displaying his enthusiasm. "Anywhere there's trouble, you know where to find us."copyright protection23PENANAcI1y9BYl0S

"I'll keep an eye out for those huge explosions then." She teased, sliding out of the van seat. Before shutting the door, she shot him a peace sign. The door slammed shut and she jogged away towards her car. Once she was far enough away that he could no longer pinpoint her out of the rest of the crowd, Wrench threw the van into drive and started back towards the hackerspace.copyright protection23PENANA1KhYRnQuRi

On the way, he keyed into Marcus' comm channel. If he wasn't actually on the op himself, he was sure as shit going to at least listen in. "Yo, M! How's the ATM thing going?"copyright protection23PENANAjUZv0Vvzkh

"Oh, Wrench, you're missing out, man." Marcus laughed in his earpiece. "You should see the faces of these people when they realize they've suddenly donated $1,000 to charity, ha ha!"copyright protection23PENANAlwZn58Z3u0

Wrench once again felt like Marcus got to have all the fun on these ops. When was Sitara going to give him something fun and exciting? It was only fair. "You'd better be recording this. I want to see later."copyright protection23PENANAWwKdvBAl6s

"Promise…and hey, I heard Riley went home?"copyright protection23PENANADqnDWnysWT

Wrench took a left turn a bit quicker than was safe, and a few drivers nearby honked at him. He sent them a kind middle finger out the driver's window. "Yup, heading back now." Marcus hummed suggestively, and he could already guess what the hacker was thinking. Wrench rolled his eyes.copyright protection23PENANAJipIGvRFzm

"Oh really? And how did that go?"copyright protection23PENANAFvTqIo2jJ8

The masked hacker sighed, making sure Marcus knew the constant inquiries about him and Riley wasn't welcome. "I just drove her back to the park, man. Nothing more."copyright protection23PENANAMnz90vxzXu

"Uh huh." His tone conveyed his disbelief, but Wrench wasn't having it.copyright protection23PENANAsHNSqtnh9X

"If you've got something to say, say it."copyright protection23PENANAEPsxfbVivF

"Seriously? Were you oblivious to Riley staring at you the whole time at the hackerspace? She's definitely interested."copyright protection23PENANAqh20r3vZCt

"It's the mask, Marcus. She likes the mask." He said in slight disappointment. It wouldn't be the first time, and he knew it probably wouldn't be the last. "And who says I'm even interested anyway?"copyright protection23PENANAu5ahYBLmTU

"Yeah, but is that such a bad thing? I sense a connection with you two." The hacker chuckled again when Wrench groaned. "And don't give me any bullshit about not liking her. I saw you looking too."copyright protection23PENANAjxKM50X0is

Wrench narrowed his eyes, hands tightening on the wheel. Marcus out of everyone else should have known it wasn't that easy for him. He knew the reason he wore the mask. But he was probably also just trying to be a good friend and encourage Wrench to do something for himself. He didn't blame him for trying, but things were…complicated.copyright protection23PENANAGJKIJcMfbp

Sometimes it was uncanny how easily Marcus could read a situation, because after a few seconds of silence on Wrench's part, the hacker sighed and spoke again. "Look, I get it. It's what's under the mask that counts, but how is anyone supposed to know who that is if you don't give them a chance?"copyright protection23PENANAJFuUXtvIQo

He knew Marcus was right, but it was a difficult to swallow reality, one Wrench wasn't sure if he was prepared to deal with quite yet. He stepped on the gas to run through a yellow light, too agitated to handle sitting stopped for several minutes.copyright protection23PENANAD9VoW0oT1H

"Alright, whatever…can we not talk about this right now?" He asked, pain evident in his voice. This wasn't exactly his favorite subject to discuss, and it wasn't like he even knew Riley that well. After meeting her for himself, he doubted she was any sort of double agent or traitor in the making. Those worries had been dashed. But just because she had a pretty face and cute mannerisms—seriously, the way she crinkled her eyes when she laughed was adorable—that didn't mean Wrench should dive in head first into relationship territory. He hadn't even known she existed a week ago.copyright protection23PENANAmHq6qaicpu

And who was to say she even cared for what was behind the mask? For someone who didn't care about risks and playing chances, this was one Wrench hesitated in taking. Why did emotions have to be so goddamn complicated and messy?copyright protection23PENANAB8a627AyPq

Marcus must have realized he was pushing the boundaries. "Sure thing, Wrench. But just think about what I said."copyright protection23PENANAWtASRwSfqU

Wrench disconnected from the channel, choosing to drive the rest of the way to the hackerspace in silence. Normally he'd fill the silence with some of his favorite hard rock, but there was too much on his mind at the moment.copyright protection23PENANAXMCnS2xbfX

"Come on…" Riley tried again with her coding software, eyes flickering between the different lines of code. According to all of her systems and knowledge of hacking, this code line should work. However, after typing it in, her laptop screen remained on the coding screen. She shook her head, releasing a frustrated breath through her nostrils.copyright protection23PENANAGQ6QX9XxHN

"Goddamn it…just my luck." She reached down and zipped her jacket up a little more to ward off the chill in the night air. It had rained later that afternoon, leaving the night much colder than it had been that morning. Riley hadn't anticipated this, but from everything her leads indicated, the CFO of Elek Motors was supposed to receive an important call from the company. At least, according to his emails.copyright protection23PENANAXDgxv84onu

Except unless she had an audio line to the man's apartment, there'd be no information for Riley to discover that night. Sitting on the building opposite's roof, with a visual on the CFO's penthouse, the journalist was so close to finding out what this phone call was about. Too bad she couldn't hack into a simple security camera.copyright protection23PENANAilgVI9Xglc

Her latest attempt, this time reworking it to bounce from one relay point and then to the camera itself, the screen remained the same and she threw her hands up in discouragement. "Fuck!"copyright protection23PENANAd13kR1tPya

Pinching the bridge of her nose, she leaned back against the wall on the roof and took a steadying breath. This wasn't turning out so well. She'd assumed she could hack into the security camera to get a visual and audio of the phone call, but it seemed her hacking skills weren't good enough to do even that. What kind of hacker was she?copyright protection23PENANACwOT4j18Ip

The CFO crossed in front of his window, drawing Riley's attention. He was looking down at his laptop, walking towards the couch and sitting in front of the tv. Surely, she didn't have much time before this phone call was supposed to happen.copyright protection23PENANAC1KTWs3UJo

Riley beat her fist into the concrete, giving up. There was something fundamental she was missing, and she didn't have all night to figure it out. Turning to her black duffel bag she'd brought along, she unzipped it and retrieved her high-definition camera. She could at least try catching him in the act of any personal scandal while she was here. There was a very slim chance of it at this point, but something was better than nothing.copyright protection23PENANA6XqahhbL7K

Kneeling behind the roof's edge barrier so she wouldn't stand out so much, Riley lined up her camera and zoomed in on the shot. With the zoom, she was able to see that he had opened up Skype on his laptop, sipping from a can of Pepsi as he lounged on the couch. He faced away from her, so she couldn't get a read on his face. There went her last ditch idea of reading his lips. Damn.copyright protection23PENANAVJgKCk4EsM

The camera clicked softly with each picture she took. Nothing incriminating was happening right now, though. She sighed heavily, feeling like such a shit investigator. This was her job, and she wasn't really doing very well at it.copyright protection23PENANA35NNZKg2EZ

"I didn't take you as the stalker type, Riley."copyright protection23PENANArLXRVe970g

She spasmed from fright at the male voice right behind her. "Jesus fucking-" She cried, biting off the last part when she realized it may draw attention from the man she was tailing. Turning in place a second later, she stared up to see Wrench's amused expression lit up on his mask. Heart beating a fast tempo in her chest, she shook her head and let out a shaky breath. "For fuck's sake, Wrench! You're really asking to be punched…"copyright protection23PENANARVZ7GCsKgU

He chuckled and sat beside her. "You make it so easy though. I couldn't help myself." His happy expression returned to the default X's, and he gestured to the man across from their building. "Who's this fuckstick?"copyright protection23PENANAwj0k7Z4o2I

Riley was able to gain a bit of her breath back, and she waved her hand dismissively. "The CFO of Elek Motors. He's supposed to be taking an important call from one of their business partners tonight, and I was going to try listening in."copyright protection23PENANAnttllpAuxA

"Going to?" He flashed quotation marks, then question marks on his mask. His head was tilted curiously.copyright protection23PENANAKpwKwcmZWD

"Well if I could actually hack into his indoor security cameras, I would," one hand gestured to her laptop with disdain, "but for whatever damn reason I can't manage it. I've hacked into cameras before. I don't know what I'm doing wrong this time."copyright protection23PENANAUtXUN4UStW

"Mind if I have a go?" He asked, meaning to reach for her laptop. Riley nodded, shrugging. He might as well try, since Riley wasn't getting anywhere. Wrench grabbed the device and placed it in his lap, illuminating his front as he typed away at the keys.copyright protection23PENANAAQq4cLuMf1

"Ah, I see what you were trying to do." He said with a sagely nod, no doubt seeing her coding history in her program. His mask reflected irritation, and he shook his head. "Normally, that should work like you were saying. But I'm willing to bet this guy's got HAUM's 2.0 tech. They're a bitch and a half to hack manually."copyright protection23PENANAm0qTKX57W2

"What am I supposed to do differently?" She asked, scooting closer to him to watch him work.copyright protection23PENANALRvILjNFbg

"See, you had the right idea," he pointed at her previous attempts, then down at his own, which was extremely similar, "but you were trying to brute force it directly. Anything having to do with security for 2.0 was updated, making that near impossible, but we figured out you can indirectly establish a connection through other HAUM systems that aren't classified as security."copyright protection23PENANACM72RjNl63

"Other systems? You mean…like toasters? And roombas?"copyright protection23PENANAnt3OmOMrVJ

"Bingo." His mask winked in response, and she smiled. There was something about the winking emote that she found strangely heartwarming. His attention returned to the screen, fingers tapping away happily. "So, we just key into a few inconspicuous appliances, reroute the outgoing signal to the cameras, and…"copyright protection23PENANAtGAZplic1u

As soon as he hit enter, the screen brought up the live feed for the CFO's penthouse. Wrench displayed it with a dramatic flurry of his hands and Riley let out a relief-filled breath. "Huh. I'm impressed."copyright protection23PENANAtEgBH8Uvt1

"What can I say? I'm a natural." The words themselves were arrogant, but the way he said them prevented her from seriously thinking he meant it in that sense. He passed the laptop back over to her, and she tapped into the audio feed.copyright protection23PENANAyRuCGQqshl

"Thank you. This would have taken me all night to figure out."copyright protection23PENANAbL2MLs84E9

Wrench shrugged like it was no big deal. Riley turned to fully look at him then, a thought nagging at the back of her mind.copyright protection23PENANAy8OPJvXE0r

"How did you even find me anyway? And what are you doing out here?"copyright protection23PENANAFyi9aYZBrh

The masked hacker took the opportunity to get himself comfortable against the wall of the roof, hands tucked behind his head. "Oh, you know. I saw you were in the area from your earpiece's GPS data, and figured I'd say hello."copyright protection23PENANAXC3ZoOrwS6

Riley chuckled. "I should have figured I'm never hidden from you guys."copyright protection23PENANAGrfvgY0dC0

"Always watching." Wrench said in a lilting tone, waggling his fingers in what was supposed to be a spooky fashion. It only made her smile widen.copyright protection23PENANAEizXrKVrlm

"Well, not to sound like you aren't welcome, but the rest of this thing will probably be pretty boring. You don't have to stay if you don't want to. I wouldn't blame you." She didn't want him to feel like he had to stick around since he'd helped. Inconveniencing someone on her part wasn't a comforting thought.copyright protection23PENANAJiZMioBKVu

"I was bored before getting here, and this seems more exciting than reading manuals on HAUM's electronics." His mask flickered to a brief angry expression. "Those things are fucking tedious."copyright protection23PENANARCV67b57oI

"Ugh, I don't even want to think about that one." She said, plugging in her headphones to the computer. Putting one bud in her ear, she offered him the second. "Want to listen?"copyright protection23PENANA830H0ssWTO

"Don't mind if I do." His happy expression returned, scooting closer to her. They both huddled around the laptop screen, and she turned the volume up just a bit higher to hear.copyright protection23PENANAjC6ippH0aC

The CFO was speaking to a woman and a young girl on the Skype screen. He gestured animatedly, and the little girl laughed. From what Riley could gather, the two people he was speaking to was his wife and daughter. Perhaps they were away on a trip or vacation. Riley couldn't tell their destination from the background of the screen, unfortunately.copyright protection23PENANAu1ep7lBdt0

She settled herself into a more comfortable position, knowing that it may be some time before the phone call came. Just to be safe, she continued listening as the guy eventually started reading the little girl a story book. A good ten minutes passed, and Wrench stayed surprisingly quiet beside her. His attention was the the screen too, and he hadn't caught her eye at any point.copyright protection23PENANAVC3Vk4nM0h

Another ten minutes passed, and the Skype call with his family finally ended. Riley perked up, hoping that something would happen. The CFO stood from the couch and wandered over to the kitchen. He waked out of sight of the living room's camera, so Wrench leaned forward and switched to the one in the kitchen, keeping track of their target.copyright protection23PENANAAkUHCk7klh

They both watched as he began making himself a sandwich. Riley sighed and propped her chin up on her hand. Wrench laughed at her boredom.copyright protection23PENANAWPibfqxRD1

"Investigative journalism not as exciting as you'd hoped it would be?"copyright protection23PENANARyDVuXZRJ0

She shook her head, glancing over at him. "Nah, I expected a lot more after getting this job. Like I said before, I'm just a really impatient person when it comes to this stuff. But oh well. It is what it is."copyright protection23PENANA9kk41Xo8hJ

"Why'd you decide to do something like this anyway?" He asked, turning to face her instead of the screen.copyright protection23PENANAqezIqP8YGM

"It's my assignment. They picked me specifically because I have hacking skills. I'm supposed to expose all the corruption, then the news station will run the story and expose these people on a national scale." She shrugged like it wasn't a big deal.copyright protection23PENANAZykCtOzsGj

Wrench shook his head, gesturing outward. "No, I meant why did you decide to be a journalist? You could have done anything else in the world more exciting, but you picked this job. Why?"copyright protection23PENANAtQENUGLjO3

Riley went quiet, not sure how to respond. No one had asked her that before. Wrench blinked with his mask, then held up his hands defensively, taking her prolonged silence as displeasure. "Hey, if it's too personal, then forget I asked. No big deal."copyright protection23PENANA3fhCXIs6G8

"It is, but…" She paused to try finding the right words. "…you guys do deserve to know, I guess."copyright protection23PENANATFGdia2SCJ

Wrench cocked his head to the side, eyes turning into asterisks. "Not if it makes you uncomfortable. DedSec may be all about exposing information, but we all have some skeletons in the closet we keep secret. We respect that."copyright protection23PENANAb6AQTvwFOl

Riley nodded slowly, taking in his words, but then she smiled sadly. "It's not uncomfortable. It's been years, so I've made peace with it. It's just a depressing story. Don't know if you'd want to hear it."copyright protection23PENANAISAZuxIWEo

"That's fine. I'm all ears." He placed a hand on his chest to indicate he meant it genuinely.copyright protection23PENANA5x3MLmWOey

Riley turned her attention back to the screen, giving herself something to focus on other than Wrench. It was easier that way.copyright protection23PENANAyqF8gyDMds

"As anime-protagonist as it sounds, taking this job is a way for me to get revenge of sorts. Or…maybe redemption?"copyright protection23PENANA7WkHWPeEMT

"Ooh, tell me more." He crossed his legs and leaned forward, head balanced between both of his hands.copyright protection23PENANA2Rq6Dcsz0G

Riley shot him a small smile, huffing humorlessly. "My dad used to be a Blume employee. He wasn't minimum wage, but we didn't live like kings, if you know what I mean." Wrench nodded his understanding and she continued.copyright protection23PENANA8y7NGnmk9A

"Sometimes, he'd have trouble paying his debts and loans. There were times I remember us having to sell a lot of our cool stuff. Over the years we had less and less assets. His motorcycle, my mom's antiques, and then we started running out of things to sell."copyright protection23PENANANgw8XtYc7K

"So, money problems. Lots of people have money problems, but how did you get screwed over?"copyright protection23PENANA6aCwggIJQJ

She finally looked back at him. "My dad's identity got stolen, which only caused the debt problem to get worse. We went to Blume because he worked there, and most of our accounts were through them, and they promised they'd do everything they could to get his accounts back into order, but it went on for months. Whoever stole his identity continued using his credit cards, opening new ones, ruining his credit…" She ticked them off with her fingers, finally shaking her head.copyright protection23PENANAqZhxNYUaj3

Wrench was taken aback. "He provided proof of identity, right? That should have unfrozen the account and allowed you guys to used it again."copyright protection23PENANAL6kifhLduS

Riley nodded slowly. "Yup. Several times. But because the thief was still using his social and credentials, and they kept denying his proof of identity because of an 'internal investigation,' we never got them open again, and the damage continued worsening." She tucked her legs up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them protectively. "I always had a feeling they intentionally made it impossible, because of his record paying things back late…and he wasn't well-liked within the company. Maybe some sort of vendetta, but I have no way of knowing for sure."copyright protection23PENANAYA2B7jRQ3H

"That's bullshit." Wrench threw his hand up angrily. "And illegal."copyright protection23PENANAztHR0uPVE8

"I know. At least, now I do. I was just a teenager then, so I wasn't fully aware of what was going on."copyright protection23PENANAZpfjHuBsI5

"So, what happened?" He asked, and she could tell he was truly invested in the story.copyright protection23PENANAlHGoiNH9EK

Riley grinned, a bit more genuinely this time. "Well, one of my friends and I tried to fix the issue ourselves. He was way into hacking and started teaching me so we could do something about it." Her eyes took on a faraway look. "Haven't seen him in years. I wonder what he's up to now…"copyright protection23PENANARdey4f3UaH

Wrench said nothing, letting her have a moment when her smile slowly faded away. A sigh escaped her lips.copyright protection23PENANA297htPM4iv

"In the end, it didn't help." She grabbed a stray rock from the roof beside her and rolled it between her fingers. It was difficult to look him in the eyes again. "All the stress got to him. He killed himself before we could get anything fixed."copyright protection23PENANAaDcQ2uEKDi

"…fuck, Riley." Wrench didn't know what else to say, shaking his head and looking away awkwardly. The eyes on his mask took on a sympathetic look. Was he supposed to offer more console than that? Hell, he wasn't good in these types of situations. "I'm sorry-"copyright protection23PENANAvvwJ3BY6v9

"It's ok." She quickly interrupted, holding up a hand. Her smile was sad but understanding. "Like I said. It's been years. I've had my time to grieve and process it all. Saying sorry doesn't help much."copyright protection23PENANAOxiWPLLCQ3

Wrench caught himself before he could say sorry again, more out of reflex than anything. He watched her expression, seeing the old pain that was still there, despite her saying she'd had time to process it. He of all people would know what that look meant.copyright protection23PENANA70HkRKOvus

"Soo…you're getting back at Blume because of your dad, right?" She nodded mutely, looking embarrassed. "Well, what about all the other corporations? You seem hell bent on dragging them all down with Blume."copyright protection23PENANAOZXlI1WH8r

She shrugged. "Aren't they all the same, when you really think about it? How many lives have they all screwed over to make a little profit or weed out the people they don't like? My dad was just one of many. Blume is a global company, but if I can help people realize what a fucked up company it is, maybe they'll lose influence, lose credibility. The rest can fall with it."copyright protection23PENANAQWZ9TPVEsL

"Hey, I feel ya there…I've got no love for any of these major corporations." He gestured aimlessly, displaying his agreement. Suddenly, Riley's eyes widened and she looked up at him quickly.copyright protection23PENANAIzMqUDaI9E

"I hope you don't think I'm telling you all this so you guys feel sorry for me. I just want you to understand that completing this assignment is really important to me."copyright protection23PENANAbYD8jmaf4i

"I understand." He displayed his amusement on his mask. "We all feel the same."copyright protection23PENANAHUfG48wZNY

There were several moments of silence, Riley not sure what to say and Wrench hesitating to ask his next question. She'd talked about the hard stuff already though, so he figured there wasn't too much harm in asking. "About your family…what about your mom? Or siblings?"copyright protection23PENANALvyxVsb6ak

"I'm an only child." She admitted, then sighed as she shifted positions. Her ass was starting to go numb from sitting in one place for too long. "I don't know quite what happened to my mom. She just…broke down. After my dad died, she became abusive. Starting getting into drugs, just led a reckless life in general. As soon as I was old enough to get out, I did. Moved to a separate city, started going to community college on a scholarship for 'at risk students,'" she quoted the air, "and eventually got my degree in journalism."copyright protection23PENANAKliouBLFRP

Wrench crossed his arms, eyes appearing to close on his mask. "You ever keep in touch with her?" He asked, referring to her mom.copyright protection23PENANAXyKdfOmLN9

"No." She said immediately, perhaps quicker than she'd intended. He could see the conflict in her eyes. Obviously this was a touchy subject too. "I don't want anything to do with her, honestly. But…" She sighed, tilting her head and meeting his gaze again. "I still keep tabs on where she is, what she's doing. Just to…I don't know…it's…difficult to explain."copyright protection23PENANAJzFi6BKhHV

"Family can be messed up." Wrench agreed, nodding slowly. "But even if you got in contact with her, it sounds like she wouldn't change. So, maybe this is for the best? I don't know. I'm no shrink." He eventually shrugged, not wanting her to think he was being cold about it.copyright protection23PENANACshVRMxCro

"Yeah, maybe." She trailed off, leaning her head back to look up at the stars in the night sky. Wrench did the same. Both of them kept an ear out for any sign that the CFO had taken that call, but there was nothing yet. Wrench realized he'd moved back to the living room and changed the view in the camera to keep him in view. He was lounging on the couch again, watching tv.copyright protection23PENANAroXbCc0YXO

"How long did it take you to move out to San Fransisco?" As far as he was aware, she didn't seem like she'd been around here for very long.copyright protection23PENANA8HnOZtqJL7

Now that the topic of discussion had moved on from her depressing past, her real smile returned. Wrench had missed it, he realized. Her sad smile was nowhere near as infectious. "About a year or so ago. I stuck around New York for a couple years, then decided I wanted a fresh start." She looked back down at the laptop, then shrugged. "Across the country felt far enough."copyright protection23PENANAFoAWjrIR39

"I'll say. I grew up around here so I can't imagine picking up everything and hauling ass across the whole country. Sounds sort of…scary."copyright protection23PENANAgvydHapH9n

That earned him a soft laugh from her. "It was. I had no idea what I was getting into. That's part of the reason I got Pants. He's an asshole, but he helps me keep focus, and serves as a reminder to relax when I can." She leaned against the wall of the roof again, wrapping her arms around her torso. It felt like it was getting colder. That, or the wind was picking up.copyright protection23PENANAvi5T64nwO8

Wrench shook his head, not answering that one.copyright protection23PENANAEtxfqRG8IK

There was another moment of easy silence, neither feeling too inclined to fill it with conversation. Wrench was amazed he didn't feel uncomfortable just sitting there next to her. She was so easy to talk to, because he wasn't worried she'd judge him for saying the wrong thing. Something about her just put him at ease. Hell, this was a new experience.copyright protection23PENANAiYfQcX1CEb

Riley's head righted itself and she gave him a wide smile. "Enough about me though. Tell me a little about yourself. What made you get into hacking? How did you join DedSec?"copyright protection23PENANAZat43A9r7X

Wrench tensed, eyes turning into circles before avoiding her gaze. "Uh…" He said, not sure what to say. Riley may feel so inclined to share her story, but Wrench was another matter. The silence stretched, and this one was uncomfortable at best. Riley waited patiently for him to continue, but when it became clear he wouldn't say anything more, she gave him an understanding smile.copyright protection23PENANAzMr71RYH0H

"It's ok. You don't have to tell me."copyright protection23PENANAsiGH9SEbuj

"…thanks." He said, glad she didn't appear too disappointed in him. Why her opinion of him mattered so much, he couldn't guess, but it did. He didn't want her to think ill of him. At the same time, his past wasn't open for sharing to anyone. Hell, his closest friends didn't even know the full story. And he'd only known Riley for a week.copyright protection23PENANAmuuQyyrIZy

She stared at the screen again. Wrench couldn't help but feel she was still somewhat disappointed in his unwillingness to share anything about him, so he relented and offered up something that wasn't too incriminating. "I can't tell you why or how but…I basically taught myself how to code. Everything I know, I had to figure out myself."copyright protection23PENANAFzk7GmZF3Z

That piqued her interest, and he was pleased to see that small smile return again. "Hell, really? I can't imagine learning some of that shit on my own. How'd you manage it?"copyright protection23PENANAmwi2drVSDp

He shrugged, eyes displaying his pleasure at having her interest again. "Wasn't easy. I like to think it was 20% because it interested me, 5% boredom, and 75% to spite everyone I knew." He flashed her a quick wink. "Even so, there's nothing I love more than breaking things apart and putting them back together."copyright protection23PENANAcZTHQsfhae

This made her laugh openly. "You know, that doesn't surprise me. Loud and destructive sounds more like you. Hacking is too…" She struggled to find the right word. "…clean, to fit your personality."copyright protection23PENANAQQObXvxWaB

His mask displayed two equals signs, showing irritation. "If that wasn't so accurate, I'd be offended. As it stands, I'll take it as a compliment."copyright protection23PENANAWx7ezlGvek

"I meant it as one, so…"copyright protection23PENANAUqkO7agnsr

Wrench tilted his head, question marks replacing the equals signs. "I can't quite figure your personality out, though." He said thoughtfully, resting his head on his hand and peering at her. Riley pursed her lips and shrugged.copyright protection23PENANACihqufV1c6

"Guess I haven't really had a reason to show it."copyright protection23PENANAD8DKnd64Ik

"Well what sorts of things are you into? And please don't say country music or some shit." He pleaded. She shook her head.copyright protection23PENANAoDLIrTTHgl

"Nah, I can't stand country." Riley thought about it, drawing a blank when actually put on the spot to describe what she liked. "I don't know, I've always been big into movies."copyright protection23PENANA8SEqj8FfaR

Wrench perked up at the word movies. "What kind?"copyright protection23PENANAlN0ZxocDtV

"Action, comedy, sci-fi, uh…superhero movies? Anything but romcoms, ugh." She grimaced at simply the thought.copyright protection23PENANAYRyJAZCtHS

Unable to stop himself, Wrench flashed hearts on his mask. "What about Predator? Or Batman? Star Wars?" He questioned hopefully, clasping his hands together in excitement.copyright protection23PENANAPQLtg4CWjM

Riley put on a dramatic face. "Here we are again bro, just you and me. Same kind of moon," she gestured up at the moon, half hidden behind some clouds, "same kind of jungle."copyright protection23PENANAOFzPE7dRLG

"Aw, hell yes!" He gave her a fist bump, pumped to have another potential movie marathon buddy back at the hackerspace. Marcus had been taking on a lot more ops lately, Josh wasn't ever thrilled to watch movies with him, and Sitara didn't like his movies. Which left him with no one to watch with. Perhaps Riley could be that person.copyright protection23PENANAMJyls8l5C2

"God, I haven't had time to watch a proper movie in a long time though." She lamented, running her fingers through her hair.copyright protection23PENANAXrTJVaOx68

Wrench realized he was still flashing the hearts, and quickly switched them to his normal happy expression, hoping she wouldn't read too much into it. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her away. "You and me will have an all-day movie marathon next chance we can, starting with Predator."copyright protection23PENANAjUNTJs0XjL

"I'm down." She said, smiling back at him. She was just as excited as him, liking the thought of a movie buddy.copyright protection23PENANAE6ucrXlM2X

"Hey, Travis, it's me. Had some things to take care of first, so sorry for the delay."copyright protection23PENANAP0oJJkTyR0

A voice coming through the headphones caught both of their attentions. Wrench and Riley both turned to see the CFO wandering around his living room, talking on his cell phone.copyright protection23PENANAGaUt3EV4Cf

"Finally! About damn time. I'm freezing my ass off here." She muttered, navigating over to her notes. Wrench scooted to the side so she could type without getting in her way. Adjusting the earbud in her ear, she zoned into focus on the audio and notes, tuning out everything else.copyright protection23PENANAPglksNiNAk

Wrench watched her for several minutes, finding her intense focus on what she was good at adorable. Riley payed him no mind, attention entirely on the camera feed.copyright protection23PENANALqla95u3Dl

He'd come out here on a whim, and it felt like he should take his leave. She was working now, and he didn't want to accidentally distract her. Wrench backed up as quietly as he could, knowing she probably couldn't hear him anyway.copyright protection23PENANA3jwYNACJEf

Smiling to himself, he stood and walked backwards, ensuring he hadn't drawn her attention. Her eyes were glued to the screen. And without looking back again, he walked to the edge of the roof and hopped down to the next level below, running off without her knowing.copyright protection23PENANAZuvlPY87LJ

It wasn't until half an hour later, her fingers cramping from typing to so quickly and so much, that Riley realized Wrench was no longer next to her. She spared a moment to glance around, searching for the masked hacker, before having to return to taking down the contents of the phone call.copyright protection23PENANAsx9NHjTbmw

A part of her was disappointed he'd left without saying goodbye, but Riley was aware of how she could get while working. Perhaps he didn't want to disturb her work, in which case she felt a pang of warmth. All the little things he did, she couldn't help but feel grateful for how understanding he was.copyright protection23PENANAxpQ4nEE0oj

The CFO continued talking, but Riley felt a little happier, even freezing up on the roof like she was. Wrench was definitely mysterious, and she'd have a hell of a time solving the puzzle that was his personality.copyright protection23PENANAfnOKIDIRLu

The silent watcher snapped a few extra pictures, relieved that the masked freak finally left. It was a miracle he hadn't been spotted, but the information the woman provided was worth the risk. Packing up his equipment, he stood from his perch on a nearby roof and disappeared inside.copyright protection23PENANAAd1K1J3UUp

Comments ( 1 )

Mikha'il - oh fECk whO IS THAT
2 months agoreply