Avalanche – Snippet 47
Mercedes Lackey and Dennis Lee
@rancbeast42 kept feeding me good stuff. Sometimes just a couple of links, sometimes as much as half a page. But of course, we had that whole parity issue going on. He knew plenty about me. I knew nothing about him.
On the other hand, he didn’t seem to understand I wasn’t your average superhacker. Sure he could, and did, hide himself. His IP address was probably changing all the time; that is seriously just not that hard to do. Plenty of motels leave “support” and “guest” open on their Wifi routers, when they bother to encrypt at all; you just park in back and find a sweet spot, and there you go. And even if he was using his own rig, an anonymizing service fixes that. However….it doesn’t allow for the technoshaman who can backtrace straight to the originating computer without even going through the internet.
So finally, when I was pretty sure I knew who it was, and just needed confirmation, I set everything up to fire on invocation and waited.
@rancbeast42 Got your ears on, Victrix?
Ha. That was what I was waiting for. With a flick of my fingers I invoked the process. Very convenient for me his firewall wasn’t set up for people like me.
@victoriavictrix Sec, I’m in the middle of something.
Not a lie, old lad, I am in the middle of remote-hacking your….laptop. Very nice. Means there’s a camera and I won’t alert you by starting hard-drive reads to find out who you are.
@rancbeast42 Chop chop, lady. I’m on the clock.
I’ll just bet you are. Keeping me from getting a backtrace finished. Hello camera. Let’s turn you on. Ah, how careless of you, this is not like you. You should have put a piece of tape over the lens. ID confirmed.
@victoriavictrix Don’t worry about backtraces, Jack. You’re looking well.
He wasn’t startled. In fact, he smiled slightly. Just to make things fair, I put a little feed from my cam in the bottom right hand corner of his screen, and wiggled my fingers at him. I was a little surprised when he wiggled his back.
@victoriavictrix Please don’t cut the connection. I’m pretty good at keeping secrets.
He kept up the poker-face, no lid slamming or nervous sweat. Instead, he sat back in his seat a little, and gave my image a good long stare, which was a bit disorienting because it meant he wasn’t looking directly at the camera. Then he leaned forward again, fingers on the keyboard.
@rancbeast42: About time. We really don’t have much left to muck about with.
@rancbeast42: We’re going to need each other. I know I can trust you. I need to know if you feel the same.
Whew. One big worry ditched.
@victoriavictrix: Red trusts you. He’s generally not wrong, about people anyway. I’m in.
@rancbeast42: We’ve got things to do. Saving the world and what not. We can help each other with that.
@rancbeast42: But there’s something else I’ve got in the works. Something I need your help with. I’m sure you’ll be on board.
@victoriavictrix: F2F? Give me a time and place.
@rancbeast42: Not the best idea, but I don’t see much help for it. There are details I don’t trust even over secured channels.
I thought about this.
@victoriavictrix: I think I have a secure loc with no modern tech in it.
I sent him the details on how to get into that old ECHO safe spot that Ramona and Merc had used, and a potential time.
@rancbeast42: Good enough. Here’s what you should bring. And here’s what I’ll be bringing.
He wrote down two things. Two names, actually. The second I wasn’t terribly surprised by, but the first…
@victoriavictrix: Why her?
@rancbeast42: You said you trusted me. Time to prove it. See you soon.
The camera-feed cut. I sat sucking on my lower lip. Interesting. Whatever Jack was up to…it was going to be slick. Red always said he was the brains of the bunch. He’d clearly anticipated that I was going to hack his computer and had been waiting for me to show my hand.
Red trusted him. Every instinct I had said that the best thing I could do was just hang on and follow instructions. Every instinct I had that wasn’t my usual paranoia said that he was smarter than me, and I wasn’t used to that.
“Instinct” is nothing more than our brains processing things so fast, in the background, that it feels as if the information is coming out of nowhere. But it’s not. It’s reasoned.
Jack could talk about trust all he wanted, but we were both gambling. He was in trouble, and short on time, it was very obvious. He was gambling that I would buy his story, his good intentions, and hoping like hell I would step in line. I was gambling that he wasn’t the two-faced bastard his scant files at ECHO portrayed him as. It made me wonder what he needed me for? And what he needed her for? He was clearly versed in unearthing intel of all shapes and sizes. It made me a bit nervous. I suppose I could have dug a little deeper, if I had the time to do so, but something told me I really could trust this enigmatic little man.
Hell, if the Mafia could work with ECHO, I sure as hell could work with Jack, someone who’d already proved he was ready to play ball nicely. Red had changed. Why not Jack?
Time to fish or cut bait. We were all out of options.
Yes indeed. Why her? I was very interested in finding out, so I cut out all the middlemen and went straight to the top.
Interlude: Breathing Underwater
Is this my life?
How long ago was it that I just trying to prove myself? That I was better, better than anyone? That I was just misunderstood? That if given a chance, I would rise to the occasion and demolish anyone that dared stand in my way? Not really what a hero would say, I guess. That’s okay. I never considered myself a hero. Just someone trying to smash all the naysayers into little itty bitty pieces. Just another meta with a chip on her shoulder, but one who knew what power meant.
What power could bring.
But it went all wrong. If ambition is a sin, then I’m a sinner. If being unable to accept defeat is a flaw, then I’m just another aberration. The truth is, I’ve always been able to know my limits. My problem lies in accepting them. Most of them, anyway. Some I’ve known for a long time, and they never really bothered me before. I have trouble getting close to people. Some might laugh and call that an understatement. Meh, whatever. Love isn’t really a foreign thing to me, y’know. I know love. I’ve loved people. But people let you down. Some people never realize how you feel. It’s unfair, but these things always are. Maybe I’m not meant to love anyone, or have anyone love me. It never ends well, does it? It just gets in the way. Red jokes about it a lot, and as much as I loathe him sometimes, he does get a nugget of truth in every once in awhile. He says love is God’s eternal joke, and each and every one of us is the punchline. I guess he would know. From what I can tell, he’s been the butt of every joke he’s ever heard.
I guess I’m the same. I never quite know what’s happening around me. I do the best I can and plan my stupid little schemes and roll with the punches, but I’m never really sure what the universe has planned for me. I do what I can, I suppose, and pray for the best.
It never comes, does it? You hope it does, but you can never count on it. You have to prepare for the worst.
So why is it that the worst always comes?
When Bull entered the dimly lit interrogation room, he was happy to see that Scope wasn’t in restraints this time. He’d spoken with the staff about it, but with regulations being what they were, even he had problems overruling certain procedures. If they were being held in Top Hold, they had to be in restraints at all times outside their cell. He supposed Scope was lucky that she was even allowed outside a cell. With a few of their prisoners, that just wasn’t possible. For example, the idea of anything restraining Harmony outside her nullifying cage was unfathomable. Scope was different, of course. She could have been kept with the general populace. Strictly speaking, her power set didn’t necessitate the extreme measures associated with Top Hold in neutralizing metas. It was more for her protection, of course. A few of the inmates in GenPop were put there by her, after all.
“She’s not a prisoner,” Bull had told Jensen. “She shouldn’t be treated as one.”
Bull remembered Jensen feigning confusion as he glanced around the cold and sterile halls of Top Hold. “Why is she in here then?”
Bull didn’t answer. He didn’t feel that he had to. Sometimes, he really wanted to smash in Jensen’s stupid, smug face.
Given the circumstances surrounding her reappearance, they just couldn’t trust anything about Scope. Of course they couldn’t. After nearly single-handedly botching a coordinated global effort to lay siege to Ultima Thule, seemingly sacrificing herself by triggering a massive explosion to bring down the city’s shields and then mysteriously reappearing after the battle with only minor abrasions, the unspoken opinion of many was that they had found their suspected mole. It didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense, at least to Bulwark, but he had to admit that even he suspected Scope now of more than just self-destructive behaviour in the face of guilt following Acrobat’s death. The problem was, she didn’t have any answers to any of their questions, at least none that she was willing to share.