Riley felt a wave of relief flood through her veins after the final list of data was loaded onto the USB drive. The total amount DedSec had needed this time took up three whole USB drives. Ejecting the drive from her computer tower, Riley stuffed all three into her bag before anyone was the wiser.
She'd stopped questioning what DedSec needed the data for, because honestly, what did it matter anyway? They were going to use it against the big corporations to fight the injustice. She wasn't worried as far as their intentions went. The only issue was Riley didn't have enough USB's to transfer all this data. At this rate, she'd run out of usable ones by the end of the week. She'd have to start asking them to provide their own.
Got it all.
Nice, Riley. I'll meet you at The Progress once you're off.
Marcus named a unique American restaurant on the eastern side of the city. It was a bit of a ways off from her commute home, but she didn't mind. They were probably out in the area doing other ops and wanted a middle ground to meet.
As usual, she deleted the messages to avoid any tracking or tracing. It was becoming a routine of sorts, keeping her movements involving DedSec a secret. Almost normal. She smirked, thinking that the definition of normal had certainly changed within the span of a few days.
Her late night, coincidental meeting with Wrench was one thing. The brunette hadn't anticipated readily admitting her reasonings for getting into journalism to these near strangers, let alone confess what happened to her dad. The pain she felt when thinking about it was numb compared to years back, but it still was a touchy subject. Not many people knew what to say when she brought it up, and Riley hated making things awkward.
Wrench had taken it in stride, though. Sure, he didn't know what to say initially, but he hadn't stopped talking to her entirely, changing the topic of discussion to something a bit easier to talk about. Of which she was glad. He was an intriguing person. She'd hate to lose the privilege of being on speaking terms because of her loose lips.
She couldn't help but smile, thinking back on her conversation with the masked hacker. He'd been so courteous and lighthearted. His normal attire left you with certain impressions, but once you got to know him a bit more, the sheer amount of passion and energy he exuded crushed any preconceptions one might have formed.
One half of her wondered why he'd been so hesitant to talk about his joining DedSec. Surely something like that couldn't have been anything too dramatic, right? Of course, the world was a cruel place. There was no telling what he may have gone through before teaming up with the hacker group. Perhaps that played some part in it. And the further she wondered about the reasoning why, the more Riley felt like an asshole for feeling disappointed that he hadn't felt the need to share with her.
It wasn't her to know everything about him. She wasn't entitled to his backstory. And yet…he was such a contradiction. That's what made him so damn interesting. Who was he really? Riley wanted to know, despite all of the logic that told her she should mind her own business.
DedSec as a whole was another addition to her life that was surprisingly smooth and exciting. Everyone was very kind. Marcus and Sitara were very patient with her as she learned the ins and outs of the group. Josh didn't talk all that much but what he did say was always meaningful and well thought out. She was willing to bet there was so much going on up in that head of his that perhaps he didn't have time to say it aloud before he was jumping to the next problem that needed solving.
The phone ringing on her desk startled her out of her thoughts, and she cleared her throat before turning on her headset. Settling into her seat, she pulled up the accounts system and took the call coming through.
"ProviBlue loan services, this is Riley, how can I be of assistance?"
The customer was inquiring into the loan process and Riley prepared herself for a very lengthy conversation. She sighed inaudibly and rolled her shoulders, willing herself not to fall asleep. It was only halfway through the day. Several hours before she could go home. Ugh. And it was only Monday. That made it all the worse.
Marcus hopped up from the couch in the hackerspace, groaning as his back straightened from his hunched position. "Alright, gang. I'm off to get that data from Riley." He said, putting one of his earbuds into his ears for his music.
Sitara nodded and went back to her art, while Josh continued coding from his desk. Wrench was over tinkering with some odd electronic or another, but upon hearing that Marcus was leaving, he perked up and dropped what he was doing.
"Marcus, wait up!" He called, jogging to catch up with the hacker at the bottom of the stairs.
"Yeah?" Marcus asked, turning to face his friend.
"You know, you've been running a lot of ops lately." He said in a convincing tone, laying an arm over his shoulders casually. Marcus was instantly suspicious. "I could get the data from Riley for you, and you can get caught up on the rest of your well-deserved rest." Wrench shot him a playful wink.
The masked hacker walked with him up the stairs towards the door to the hackerspace. "Uh huh." Marcus replied in a monotone. "Picking up data sounds too mundane for your tastes, Wrench. Why the sudden interest?"
The masked hacker looked taken aback, almost offended. "I'm offended by your implication, sir." He said in a fake accent, then switched back to his normal voice. "Sitara's given you all the jobs lately. It's my turn."
Frowning in confusion, he wondered what Wrench's motives were, and then it clicked. His expression cleared, and the hacker turned an amused and knowing gaze onto the anarchist.
"Ohhh, I see what's going on." Marcus implied with a slow nod, stopping three quarters up the stairs and crossing his arms. The two hackers turned towards each other, but Wrench had the gall to flash two circles on his mask. It was either surprise, or him feigning not knowing what he meant.
"What?" Wrench asked, his head tilted slightly. Marcus wasn't buying it, and narrowed his eyes further with a widening smile. "What?" He spread his hands wide, still pretending not to know.
"Don't play stupid with me, Wrench. You're a terrible liar."
"I have no idea what you're implying here." The hacker replied in a suspiciously defensive tone, eyes shifting into sideways glances. His flippant demeanor was all Marcus needed to confirm his gut feeling.
Personally, he was glad Wrench was moving on from the waitress at the cafe. He'd noticed that the picture of her had been ripped off of his board at his workspace. You didn't have to be a genius to figure out what had caused it. Either she had a boyfriend now, or Wrench had tried asking her out and been rejected. And, if he knew even a little bit about Wrench, it was most definitely the former option. The guy was headstrong and outgoing, but when it came to girls and relationships? Hell no.
Marcus gestured to the stairs leading out of the hackerspace. "If you wanted to see Riley again, you could have just said so. No need to act all coy about it." Marcus offered, earning a punch in the arm and a glare from his friend.
"That's not what this is about."
"Oh, really?" He laughed to himself, shaking his head to indicate he didn't believe Wrench. Still, he kept his voice down so the rest of the team wouldn't hear them from downstairs. "Just want her all to yourself then? Is the Wrench getting jealous?"
Wrench's eyes changed into angry slashes. "Fuck you, man. Forget I asked." He turned to go back to his workspace, but Marcus grabbed the back of his vest and stopped him.
"I'm just giving you a hard time, Wrench. Go for it, go see your girl." He pushed him up the steps in encouragement, offering a slap on the back as his support, and then walked back down to the hackerspace.
"She's not my-!" He called after him, but realized Marcus wouldn't listen anyway. It was a waste of breath.
Wrench played with the thought of returning as well, preserving his pride and trying to prove to Marcus that it didn't matter that much to him, but he also wanted to see Riley again. So, hoping that his hacker friend wouldn't start talking out of turn to the rest of DedSec, he climbed up the rest of the stairs and went out the door.
Sitara frowned when Marcus reappeared at the bottom of the stairs. "Weren't you going to get that data from Riley?" She asked, confusion evident in her voice.
Marcus chuckled. He tossed a thumb over his shoulder, winking. "Wrench has it covered."
She smiled a little, not quite sure what he was implying, but knowing there was something going on here. Raising a brow in a silent question, Marcus only shook his head and wandered off over towards the couch, pulling a game up on his phone.
By the time Riley made it to the restaurant, she spotted a very familiar stud-covered hacker standing in the alley beside it. Smiling, she pulled into a parking spot and wandered over to where Wrench was standing. She could hear his amused and muffled laughter as she approached.
"What's so funny?" She walked up in front of him, noticing he was looking down at his phone. The eyes on his mask flashed his happy expression, and he turned the phone towards her.
"I've been…keeping this guy…" His sentence was interrupted by laughter he struggled to stifle. "This guy's been stopped at this stop light…for over ten minutes!"
The screen of his phone was from the point of view of a traffic camera, which was zoomed in on one car in particular. The occupant appeared to be screaming into a cell phone, gesturing madly at the light. He kept glancing around at the people who were stuck with him, shaking his head and indicating he didn't know what was going on.
Riley felt a smile growing on her face. "Who is that?"
"It's…it's some douchebag who works for Tidis." Wrench was able to take control of most of his chuckling now, holding his torso to stop the spasms. "I found out he's got four unpaid speeding tickets, and I felt like this was the perfect poetic justice."
"Oh my god." Riley laughed, unable to help it. It was probably super frustrating for everyone who was stuck behind the guy too, but seeing his outraged and maniacal freak out was too hilarious not to find it funny. "That's so evil."
"You're too kind." He joked, bowing gracefully.
Too bad the traffic currently with the green light didn't have any breaks, otherwise he might have been able to just run the light and continue on his way. She never thought she'd be saying it, but she was for once glad that San Fransisco's traffic could get so bad.
Finally, Wrench seemed to relent enough to change the stop light, because the guy threw up his hands and stomped on the gas pedal before it could happen to change back any second. Wrench disconnected from the camera feed and tucked his phone in his pocket, turning to look at her fully. That pleased expression didn't leave his mask.
"Marcus said you were delivering the goods." He said in a lilting tone.
Riley raised a brow, playing along. "Only if you've got the cash."
Wrench pretended to dig through his pockets, eyes displaying his fake panic when he couldn't find his wallet. "Uh…hmm…well…maybe we could put this one on my tab?"
Riley laughed, reaching in her bag to pull out the USBs. "Just this once."
He took the offered USBs and tucked them into his back pocket, shooting her a wink. "Much appreciated."
Riley shrugged, brushing a few loose strands of hair behind her ear. "Eh, it's not like I'm doing much. Just moving some data."
Wrench's happy expression changed to show two question marks, and he tilted his head. "What? Of course you are."
"I don't see how-"
He waved away her denial, shaking his head. "Just associating with us and helping our cause is more than we could ask. We're aren't exactly well liked by the public, so you're sticking your neck out for us."
"I guess." Riley said, warming up to the idea that she was indeed associated with DedSec. She'd originally thought of this as a separate partnership but…how exactly did the rest of the group see it? Maybe it wasn't as strictly professional as she'd initially thought it would be.
Wrench's mask displayed the default Xs again. "Support in any form is helpful. Especially to Sitara."
Riley wouldn't bother saying that she still didn't feel like she was doing much, but smiled up at him quietly instead. He was really trying to convince her otherwise, so she'd let him have this win.
"Now, enough with the mushy shit. I've gotta this this sweet data back to the hackerspace." He turned towards the car that was parked further down the alleyway, pointing towards it. "You coming?"
Part of her wanted to ask why he showed up in a different vehicle each time they met, but she had a feeling she knew the answer. "Nah, I've got to finish the draft of my next post. Plus, Pants is probably whining because he hasn't been fed yet."
His mask showed two equals signs, perhaps from annoyance, and finally shrugged. "The cat will be fine but…alright, suit yourself."
Wrench made it all the way to the door, gripping the handle, before pointing at her accusingly. "I'm holding you to that movie marathon, though. No backing out!"
"I wouldn't dare!" She replied with a smile, watching as he got in the vehicle and started up the engine. She took a few steps to the side, placing herself out of the way so he could drive out into the street.
The car started forward. Riley gave him a wave as he passed. "See ya, Wrench!"
He flashed her a wink, and it sent a pang of…some sort of feeling through her chest. A pleasant feeling. She tugged on the strap of her bag, walking back towards her own car once he disappeared from sight.
And as suddenly as she had grown warm inside from the possibility that…maybe he liked her…it was dashed. Surely, Wrench was just a flirt. Right? Did he talk like that to everyone he knew? His personality surely felt that way…Her smile fell a little, and she reached her car. Climbing inside, Riley tossed her bag into the passenger seat, then stared at the wheel for a moment.
He barely knew her. And the strength of her attraction to him was honestly a bit creepy on her part. She barely knew him. Maybe her love of fictional video game and movie characters was getting the better of her, comparing him to those she couldn't help but love in her favorite media, and somehow transferring that obsession onto him? There really wasn't a straight answer to this. All Riley knew was that maybe her feelings were much too strong for only having known him less than two weeks.
Expletives directed at herself for getting distracted while on assignment was her only thought while driving home. But as soon as she pulled into her designated covered parking spot, Riley couldn't help but tell herself that it was ok to get a little distracted. Maybe she was working too hard. Maybe she could afford doing something for her. Talking to someone for her benefit, instead of the assignment's.
Her smile returned as she stepped up to the door of her apartment. Yeah, that had to be right. Even if he didn't like her, she could count him as a close friend. Riley knew herself well enough to know the romantic interest probably wouldn't go away until he either straight up rejected her or she was sure of his own feelings. But she was adult enough to be able to hide them away without letting them distract her from the job that needed to be done.
Pants was yelling at her as soon as she opened the door. Riley could only guess at what he was trying to say. Where have you been? Do you know how long I've waited here, for you, to come feed me? We've been over this before, I need my food. You've been late way too many times this week and honestly I'm worried you aren't treating me as I should be treated. So help me if I had thumbs, I'd call animal control to take me to a better home. Where they feed me on time.
Riley only knelt down and patted his furry little head, scratching between his ears affectionately. "You know I love you, Pants. You're the best douchebag cat I could have asked for."
This seemed to tide him over for a minute while she got out his food and finally provided him with something to eat. He scarfed it down in record time, ignoring her while he chomped away. At least he was satisfied. For now.
She went about her normal routine of getting into pajamas and eating her own microwave food. Riley liked the routine, but after having such unique people around like those at DedSec, she realized just how sad and lonely it must seem to live her life. Wake up every weekday for a 9 to 5 job, spend her nights working on another sort of job, then use her weekends to follow more complicated leads, attend to grocery shopping, laundry, and other upkeep of her apartment. It was so…boring.
That morose feeling loomed over her again, and she found the smile faded from her face. Riley didn't mean to be so depressing, but…hell, everyone had the right to feel down about themselves every so often. She was no different than anyone else.
Deciding that she would forgo the recordings she had of that day, Riley curled up in front of her tv with her laptop and played the next episode of some new series she'd been thinking of watching on Netflix.
While it played in the background, catching her attention every once in awhile when something exciting or noteworthy happened, Riley began working on the next post she intended to share for DedSec. If Wrench said it helped, then by god she'd make sure it was of the highest quality.ns 220.127.116.11da2