The Trials of John Brawley | Teen Ink

The Trials of John Brawley

December 19, 2018
By Avid_Procrastinator, Whiteman Afb, Missouri
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Avid_Procrastinator, Whiteman Afb, Missouri
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Author's note:

I particiated in the NaNoWriMo challenge, and wrote double what I was supposed to do (50k instead of 25k)

The author's comments:

This is about Jeremy Stevens and Kim Ono, two members of a hacktivist group called DEDSEC who are infiltrating a corrupt organization to steal their data and release it to the people.  This chapter is how they meet and cultivate their friendship

A few years ago...

Jeremy grabs extra pistol cells for the mission he's about to go on. Jeremy's source told him about there being a scandal covered up with an someone from smart house tech-integrating company was using their software to hack into people's bank account and automatically upgrade their service to "Premium ultra-pack" without giving them the perks that come with that. This siphoned tens of thousands of dollars, maybe more. Someone had to do something about it, and the authorities were needed elsewhere. Looks like that honor would have to fall to him. Sledge agreed that this needed to be done, and no one was around to do it.

Our hideout was small, but comfy. A 3D printer sits in one corner, a neigh super-computer sitting next to it. This is where sledge talks Jeremy through all of their missions. Sledge likes going out in the field, but he has a habit of making enormous messes where none should be. Realizing this, he usually subjects himself to the "Man-in-the-chair" role, pulling up blueprints, schematics of buildings, jots down notes he or Jeremy has while out and about. Beds in one room, a fully furnished kitchen in another, it was basically a big apartment, lent to them by one of Sledge’s friends whose father owns the place. All in all nice people, but not the focus right now.

Jeremy walked out into the night air and activated his holo-mask. The cool thing about holo-masks is that they aren’t usually used for concealing one’s identity. Most often, they’re used as hover bike helmets and construction hats, used for protection against blunt force trauma, but given their nature, Jeremy and X both used holo-masks in their attire. Jeremy walked outside, pulling out his phone to start his hover bike. A press of a button sends the engine roaring to life, cold heat spewing out from underneath the thermo-coils. He hopped on, choosing some music to dull the roar of traffic, of the engines and the horns, and his own mind. Jeremy is nervous about this op. If he doesn’t do well, if things go haywire, he could die. He always has these jitters before missions, but this time it was worse.  He drove off, letting the faint hint of wind hit the back of his throat when he breathes. The journey was long, but not far from where the safe house was. Turns and winding roads made the heavy traffic even heavier, but that was no surprise. He switched his bike into high hover, blasting over the cars below him, leaving them in his dust. If he had stayed there, he would have been there all night, and there were things to be done. The cars below him honked in retaliation, but they did nothing to pursue, nothing to lash out besides mutter to themselves under their breath in quiet indignation.  

Soon, Jeremy reached the building where he needed to go. “Smart Home, LLC. Sledge, I’m here.” He dismounted his bike and strolled to the front entrance, locking his bike down with his phone as he walked. He opened the large doors to the sky scraping complex of hallways, elevators, and rooms hidden to the naked eye. Lucky for him and Sledge, his eyes weren’t completely naked. Holo-masks have the ability to house more than just protection within its hard-light hexagonal panels. Sledge, from his computer back at base, can upload different light filters that sense out different areas of the electromagnetic spectrum. That’s for later though. Jeremy clicks his mask off and approaches the front desk and asks the lady running it if there is an appointment for a “Steve Codsworth,” a name Sledge pulled from their upcoming appointment lists and funneled to Jeremy through a small, hidden earpiece just inside his ear canal. The woman gave him a pass and motioned him towards the elevators behind her.

“Thank you! Have a nice day, ma’am.”

“Oh, thank you so much, to you as well, Mr. Codsworth. You’ll be on the 41st floor.”

He went into the elevator, but the 41st floor was not where he was going. He was gonna make a stop there, yes, but that was not their end goal. Smart Home has data servers encrypted multiple times over. Someone like Jeremy who needed to break into those servers couldn’t do it from a remote location like where Sledge was. As much fun as it would be to look at lines of code all day long, this was better for Jeremy. He started tapping his foot in the elevator, showing his impatience more than he wanted to. The elevator dinged on the 41st floor, and he walked out. He walked toward the server room, careful to avoid the heavily armed security guards that lay around every corner. He walked quickly and silently, dodging eyes and escaping the notice of the guards long enough for him to whip out his phone and open the secure door of the server room elevator that brings people all the way down to the basement. Jeremy steps in and activates his holo-mask, the HUD flashing before his eyes, with big letters spelling out “INITIALIZING” right in the center of his vision. As he’s passing the 29th floor, the elevator stops and the lights turn from a cold blue-white to blood red, and a faint alarm sounds. This makes Jeremy absolutely freak out, calling to Sledge to see if he can identify what the problem is, if Smart Home has gotten wise to his antics and are now searching for him, but the reception comes through all garbled and unintelligible. He curses to himself and tries to think of the best way to get out of the prison he himself has entered into. Going up is the wrong direction, staying put will most likely get him killed, and there’s no bottom panel. Jeremy shoots Sledge a text, saying, “If and when you get this, I need a holo-disguise of one of the server techs that work in the basement. Something is going on, and alarms are sounding. Radio silence until further notice.”

Back at the hideout, Sledge was freaking out a lot more than Jeremy was. He started typing on the keys in front of him, he almost broke his keyboard, but held it in check enough to where the whole thing didn’t snap in half from the force. He screamed into his microphone, trying to get anything through Smart Home’s lockdown firewall, but to no avail. He started texting G0bl1n to move as fast as he could, because if it was them that tripped the alarm, G0bl1n would have to move quickly. Sledge started trying to get into anything he could to let him in on the situations. The outside cameras that worked on an outside server they hit a while back that sadly didn’t connect to the main server were the easiest things to get into for Sledge. A self-taught demolitions expert, he was also really good at hacking. And good thing too, because if not, Sledge would not have seen a mysterious figure climbing up the side of the building take out the camera on one side of the building just to take the one he was looking through out only a moment afterwards. An amateur, for sure, but Sledge knows who set the alarm off. In a last ditch effort, he sends a text to G0bl1n, saying “I found the perp. They’re climbing the outside walls. Be careful, they might be dangerous.”

G0bl1n and Sledge didn't get each other's texts until too late.  G0bl1n heard footsteps come towards him, and he had to think fast.  Forward and down still weren't an option, but up was now.  He thought that maybe whoever the footsteps belonged to thought that he was somewhere else, he could hitch a ride to wherever they're going. He pops a charge from his shock pistol into the ceiling and climbs through the hatch.  Not a moment after he closes the door after himself, the doors to the elevator open and four men pile into the small, cramped cabin and click the button for the lowest level.  The elevator dropped suddenly, and G0bl1n knew this wasn't right.  The men inside the car began to shout for the emergency kill switch, but the button was jammed and didn't work.  Something made the elevator drop faster than it was supposed to, and was gonna find out who or what.  He started to feel his feet leave the roof of the elevator, his whole body drifting away from the mass of metal.  The elevator began drifting farther and farther away from him, and he realized he needed to slow the thing down if he was gonna make it out safely.  He pulled his shock pistol again and took aim at the car's suspension system.  He squinted one eye and prayed his aim would ring true while he squeezed the trigger.  The cell charged up and released, sending a bolt of lightning directly into the cables of the car.  One of the motors seized up, but the other three still ran.  The display in the floor of the car was getting dangerously close to their destination, and he took another shot.  To his relief, it landed, but still nothing happened.  The last few floors came way too fast and a pot shot from his shock pistol took the third out of four motors out of commission... at least for the time being.  The elevator slowed down and his feet connected with the metal roof.  Sighs of relief came from within the car, drowning out the small clunk of G0bl1n landing.  This is where he needed to be... ground zero.  He waited for the men to leave the car before he opened the hatch to drop down, but he didn't get that chance now.  The elevator kicked into high gear and flattened him against the roof as it sped upwards.  G0bl1n rolled over on his back to see ow far he was going.  Floor after floor after floor sped by him, whooshing in his ear as he passed.  He saw something that really shouldn't be there.  The tops of elevator shafts... a giant metal spike, protruding from the soft rubber stopper of the roof.  He started to freak out.  That shard of metal was coming at him fast, and he couldn't go into the cabin to hide, the guys who called the elevator would see him, and he couldn't stay where he was because of the spike, and he didn't know where it was gonna hit, if it was gonna hit somewhere.  G0bl1n started thinking of things he could do to dodge the thing.  He struggled to his feet, and started run around in circles trying to figure out what to do, before falling down again.  The car got closer and closer to the spike, protruding ominously out of the ceiling, and G0bl1n resigned himself to his fate.  The car slowed down, and he laid there, thinking that was the last thing he'd ever see.  The spike crept towards his throat, inching closer and closer before it stopped, just above his Adam's apple.  He breathed a sigh of relief, a sigh that scraped his throat against the jagged metal edge.  As carefully as he could, he moved out of the way of it, scooting himself to the side.  A single guy came in the elevator and it slid down the cables fine this time.  The guy left the car, and G0bl1n dropped down into the elevator.

The server room was massive.  Rows on rows of servers pumping thousands, maybe millions of terabytes of information every hour.  The servers were stacked on top of each other probably thirty, maybe forty feet high.  Staircases snaked around the server towers, and guards patrolled their perimeter.  G0bl1n ducked behind some palate crates, dodging the gaze of one of the guards from the elevator.  He knew because of his hair, a bright red strip down one side, a scar down the other side.   G0bl1n reached for his shock pistol, but when his hand scraped his holster, his hands found nothing.  He reached around with either hand, trying to feel for anything but his shock pistol was gone.  Little did he know, his pistol was lying on the roof of the elevator car that led down here.  It fell out of its little holster on G0bl1n's way up to the roof, and there it lays without its master.  Looks like he is gonna have to do this ghost style, no shock pistol, no detection.  He crouched low to the ground, and sneaked around, making no sound.  He climbed one set of staircases to get to the master control panel, which would let him access all of Smart Home's server data, and with a few keystrokes, get into their dirty laundry.  He rounded a corner to be met with Hair-stripe McHeadScar, and he freaked out.  He started to open his mouth, but G0bl1n, crouched low to the ground, launched off of the ground, putting his whole body into a massive punch that lifted the other guy off of the ground with him.  The guy's body hit the ground with about the loudest thunk he could've made in the world.  Every guard in the server room heard him, and they all radioed the incident in.  Taking the knocked out guy's handgun, he ran as fast as possible around the corner to get away from him.  The center console was not his priority anymore, his first mission was to not get caught and possibly killed.  

He climbed a ladder that led up to a server tower with a hole in the center and hid there.  In the tower, he heard everything that went on outside of it, some footsteps of some very disgruntled guards.  He heard something else though, something that he shouldn't have.  A metal grate hitting the floor, way high up in the rafters.  The grate tumbled down the hollow server tower shaft and almost clocked G0bl1n in the face, but at the last second, he dodged the grate, leaving his hands seared from the massive heat blast of the servers, but otherwise unscathed.  He pulled himself out of the shaft and came face to face with someone in a full mask, who leaped back in surprise, and, with a puff of smoke, disappeared.  She just... was there one second and not another.  This freaked G0bl1n out, sure, but he was here for a job.  He heard some of the guards yelling and grunting with exertion, but then all soon fell silent.  He rounded more corners to find the guards that had been chasing him all knocked unconscious.  There could have only been one person who could've done this.  That mystery person he saw earlier.  They must have been the one that did this.  G0bl1n leaped over the now unconscious bodies and ran toward the control console.  He rounded his last corner and saw it.  His end goal was in sight!  He was so elated, when he ran up to the console, he tackled the mystery person, who was standing at the console manipulating its code.  They hit the ground hard, sending the mystery thief's invisibility haywire, making them appear underneath G0bl1n.  He spluttered, and they forced their feet underneath his torso and launched him off of them.  He flew into the air and crashed onto the metal grate, just as his first knockout had.  The mystery person's voice was garbled through a voice changer.

"You shouldn't have gotten in my way.  I'm gonna have to kill you if you don't get out of here."

G0bl1n chuckled and jumped to his feet.  He brushed himself off, saying, "Ah, you wouldn't do that to little old me, would you? Would you?"

"In a heartbeat."

"Ain't that a kick in the pants?"  

He sighed.  "I guess if it can't be helped..."  He put his hands up, readying himself for their fight.  In response, her right arm split down the middle, in between the middle and ring finger all the way down to her elbow.  Sharp blades folded out onto a central core, and that core drops down to their on a thin fiber mesh cord.

"Ain't that a bigger kick in the pants?"  He pulls out the pistol he swiped off of the guard.  She crouches low, shifting her center of gravity down, and swipes with the flail.  G0bl1n tries to do a backwards bend dodge, but the swing was so fast, it caught him on the chest and sent him straight onto the floor.  From the floor, he fires a couple shots at the assailant, but all ricochet off of the flail head and around the room.  They charge him, swinging the flail up into the air and bringing it down full of momentum.  He rolls to the side and throws the gun at them, hitting them squarely in the mouth, breaking some of the mask they wore, revealing part of their eye.

"You're... a g-"

They hit him in his ribs with the flail, sending him over the railing and down to the floor twenty feet below.  He hit the ground with a thud, knocking all of the air out of his body.  He struggled to his knees while mystery person slides down on their flail, now turned into a grappling hook.  

"Okay, that's cool, but entirely unfair."

"That's what you get for being the coolest around."

They lunge at him again, this time shooting the flail out like a harpoon.  It rocketed past him faster than he saw anything of that size move before and landed squarely in the chassis of the elevator car.  G0bl1n gave the mystery person a quick smirk and started running right for the end of that flail.  They tugged and pulled, but the flail didn't come loose.  They grunt and start running toward G0bl1n, reeling in as they do, giving themselves a little speed boost.  It would be nice if G0bl1n hadn't gotten there already, and is trying to get the hatch open.  Mystery person gets there after a couple seconds of G0bl1n trying and failing to get the ceiling hatch open.  They barge in the doors and start punching anything in reach, but G0bl1n always seems to dodge.  He maneuvers around the fist and the flail so when it’s finally pulled out, a swift uppercut would be all he needs to get his shock pistol on the other side.  It happens, and the uppercut he's looking for comes, but when he tried to dodge the blow, he accidentally leaped directly into the blow, sending him through the roof into the elevator shaft.  He landed with another thunk, and mystery person shoots their grappling hook up to another level some ways off and zooms up to the roof of the car.  They look down at G0bl1n, disgust in their one eye showing.  They say in a less robotic voice than before, as their modulator was broken from the pistol whip.

"Had enough?"

G0bl1n lay on the ground and laughed heartily.  "Not quite, girly."  He rolled over to where his pistol laid, grabbed it, and whipped around to fire.  A flail would have caught him in the head if he didn't duck at the last second and fire his shock pistol under his leg, catching her right in the arm, shocking it so the whole contraption would revert to just be an arm, or at least stop working.  The former happened, and the whole thing sucked the flail back into her arm and closed itself up with harsh, shuddering movements.  A small explosion sent her back a couple steps, and she punched herself in the arm and screamed.  She tore off her mask and stared directly into G0bl1n's eyes.

"You're gonna pay for that."  She clicked a button on her right thigh and she disappeared into invisibility once again.  Punches came from nowhere, and disappeared just as quickly as they came.  After almost falling to the ground again, he jumped down the hole made by the flail and ran out toward the console.  He threw some hexagonal objects on the floor, and, after righting themselves, activated.  Mystery girl hopped down the elevator hole and strolled towards where G0bl1n was, still cloaked.  He was looking around everywhere, trying to figure out where she was.  Poor guy, he'll never know what hit him.  She ran towards him and sent a flying kick his way.  Somehow he realized where she was and dodged it just in time, making her land just on the other side of where he was, making no noise to attract his attention.  She silently cursed to herself, believing that she had made some modicum of noise to let him know where she was.  She tried a different approach, this time.  She silently stepped closer and closer to him till she was just far away, she could hear him breathe, but not feel it.  She pulled back her fist ready to punch, but as soon as she threw it, G0bl1n moved out of the way.  He wasn't even looking at her, he just reacted to something that wasn't even there to his knowledge.  She lost it, kicking and punching as fast and as hard as she could, but for every thrown attack, he would just move out of the way.  He started just walking away nonchalantly, so she perused him, kicking and punching, abandoning all pretenses and going all out.  That sucker just shoved his hands in his pockets, hunched over, and kept strolling along, dodging every attack thrown at him.  When she tried to sweep his legs, he would hop over them.  Go for a rib kick or a kidney punch?  He'd spin out of the way just in time.  That wasn't even the worst of it.  One of these bozos was trouble, but now she saw not one, but two guys with goblin masks.  Was she high?  Was she being drugged right now?  Was she crazy?  Can't be... could it?  She shot a kick towards the second one, and just like the first, he dodged it, but this time, instead of being so passive about everything she did, he tried to hit back.  For every hit she would try to land on him, he would turn around and try to hit her with two or three more.  Soon, he overwhelmed her, and she was forced to retreat into the shadows to collect herself.  Maniacal laughter echoed throughout the server room, taunting her.

"Can't seem to hit me now?  Looks like you're getting slow..."

A shock pistol shot zapped next to her, and she jumped to the side.  More shots rang out, making her run as fast as she could.  There was no way he could know where she was.  She was invisible and in the shadows, that's like two layers of "You cannot see me right now."  She rushed the second G0bl1n and faked a punch, which he dodged, to throw a kick where he would SURELY not expect, and she hit...nothing.  

"Your holograms are really good.  You think you can take me for a fool?"  The real G0bl1n's voice rang out as the fake ones around her disappeared.  

"Yeah... I think I can."

She looked over to the elevator, which held a man with a goblin holo-mask holding a small thumb drive.  She screamed and ran towards the man who taunted her.  The doors closed, and the elevator took off.  She reached to her side and propped it out so she could use it as a lever to open the door to the elevator shaft.  Opening it up, she clambers inside of it and takes aim with her robot arm and, just as it had done the last time fires up the elevator shaft, hitting the car in its bottom and piercing its hull.  The blades on the hook flare out as the tension yanks her into the air.  She starts reeling herself in, the air around her whipping through her hair.  G0bl1n sees the hook come through the floor and has another idea.  Bursting through the floor, she whips around to see G0bl1n hugging the wall like his life depended on it.  He points to the roof of the car, and thinking the hologram in front of her was a trap, jumped through the hole in the roof to engage the G0bl1n there.  She saw him standing straight up.  He looked at her though his holo-mask, and didn't see a ruthless killer or assassin dealing in espionage, but a young woman who was maybe doing the same thing he was.  He looked right at her and asked her why she needed Smart Home's data.  She replied curtly that it was "None of his business," and that he should hand over the thumb drive worth of data.  He tossed it up in the air and caught it, replying just as curtly.

"Not gonna happen.  I need this more than you do.  Oh, and, by the way, this is your floor."  The G0bl1n on the ceiling dissolved down into a small hexagonal Roomba and drove itself through the hole and down into the hands of the real G0bl1n, who sat, smirking.  He pointed up again.

She looked up and saw that same metal spike G0bl1n did when he took a ride on the death elevator express coming straight towards her  She dropped to her stomach and crawled through the hole in the ceiling to drop down to the cabin below.  She landed with a thud, but when she got to her feet, G0bl1n's shock pistol was aimed directly at her head, far enough to where she couldn't reach it to disarm him, but far enough away to where it would be hard for him to miss a shot right to her face.

"Why do you want their data so much?"

"My employer needs it, and I need to get paid.  Why do you need it?"

"To let people know how awful these guys are."

She barked out a quick laugh.  "So you're the 2069 version of Robin Hood.  Unbelievable."

"Better than being a hired merc who knocked like... I don't know, eight or so guys out."

"Nine."

"FINE.  There were nine guys you beat over the head to make them not conscious anymore, that's still not the best thing in the world."

"And you're stealing."

"What I'm stealing has no monetary value.  This is just information I intend on releasing into the world to let people in on some secrets."

"I obviously does have monetary value, because there are some very dangerous people who would pay me a lot of money to get this to them without some gremlin stopping me."

"Excuse me!  This is obviously a goblin, not a gremlin, you homunculus."

The car smashed into the ceiling of the hundredth floor, sending the jagged shard of metal straight down into the cabin of the elevator.  The doors opened, and she ran off, leaving G0bl1n to maneuver around the spike without falling down a giant hole in the process.  He saw the mystery woman run straight out of a window and down to the side of the building, and ran directly towards the big hole she made.  He steeled his nerves, readied his mind, and started running after her.  He leaped as far as he could through the window, hitting the glass panes below him with a loud thud.  He saw the woman jumping off of the slanted part of the skyscraper.  He started to panic, realizing that although she had a grappling hook, he shot it with his shock pistol and would be out of commission until it was hard rebooted.  He pulled out his phone to start up and call his hover-bike to him.  He caught a metal beam that held the glass together and started running down the slope instead of sliding on it.  He reached the edge and used the corner to launch himself downwards at the woman, gripping his arms and legs together to make himself more streamlined and aerodynamic.  His heavier frame, coupled with the bullet-like shape he took, made catching up to the damsel a lot easier.  He threw his arms out in front of him to plow the air to his sides like a snow plow might for snow.  He was so close. Just a few more feet and he'd save her.  He wouldn't have to add another death to his list of people he failed to save.  Another he let die.  He grabbed her arm and she whipped around to plant her foot directly into his face.  Good thing holo-masks were shock resistant, otherwise he would've lost his grip and he might not have been able to save them both without serious injury or death.  Not even his holo-mask would protect him from a hundred story fall.  He threw her so she would start spinning in the other direction and punched her in the back of the head, knocking her out cold.

Not my finest move by far, he thought to himself.  It could be worse.  Worse it got, as the place G0bl1n had told his bike to go to was completely empty, and a quick glance over at the front of the building showed him that his trusty bike was nowhere to be seen.  His bike wasn't gonna save him this time, so what was?  Her grappling hook!  Maybe... His idea was risky, but if it panned out, it would save them both.  It would've been a lot easier if this chick was conscious, but she can let his Qui-Gons be Qui-Gons as soon as she realizes that he saved their lives.  He angled her arm towards some buildings, and, after wrapping his legs around her waist, brought out his shock pistol.  This is what got him into this mess, and now it will be the one to get him out.  He set the pistol to "TASER," making his shock pistol protrude two metal rods, which he then unceremoniously jammed into her arm, sending it into its opposite mode.  Her arm opened up and shot the hook out no problem, but making it land and actually grapple to something was entirely left up to luck at that point in time.  That and landing with as little bone breakage as possible.  The hook sped off to some buildings on the other side of the street from where they were falling from and... The hook overshot the building he was aiming for.  The road was speeding towards them, there was no time to reel it back in for another shot, so he would just have to improvise.  He angled himself so he would drift over to the side of one building, and, as soon as he got close enough, launched himself off of it, slamming himself into the woman, yanking the hook into a corner of the building it hit.  The cord tightened, and the two started to swing through the streets dodging cars and light poles in the process.  He did this for a couple seconds, but it was entirely unavoidable, as he swung from one light pole, straight around the vertical part of another one.  He crashed into a wall of one of the neighboring buildings, but left the poor woman to swing around it like a tether-ball on its post.  He slowly gets to his feet, glad his holo-mask protected him from the smash.  Pulling out his phone, he checks to see where his bike is, and found it nearby the Smart Home building, but out of range of his call function.  He'll get that later.  Right now, there's an unconscious woman wrapped up in her augment's grappling hook cord and he needs to get her down before she hurts herself with people looking.  He hops up to where she is and yanks on the cord a couple times, freeing it from its restraints on the building.  Wondering how this woman fit so much of this cord on or in her body, he starts winding it up, slowly freeing the woman from her trap, but safely letting her down slowly.  She starts to wake up as G0bl1n is finishing.  

"Why are you tying me up?  Help!  You in the red shirt, come help me, please!  He's tying me to a pole!"  The aforementioned man turned up the collar on his red polo and walked faster.

"Oh, shut up, I'm getting you down."

"You are not!  I know your kind, and there's no way-"

An old woman who watched G0bl1n unravel her bonds piped up.  "He's telling the truth, honey.  Let the nice man let you down and quit making a fuss.  You're making Jesse very anxious, you know."

She was very taken back.  "I'm... very... sorry, ma'am.  Gob?  A little help please?"

"That's what I've been doing for the last five minutes, calm down."

He let her down with all the grace of a rhino with butter feet.  She landed with a thunk and asked him a very simple question.

"What the hell were you thinking?"

"We could've died, I couldn't let that happen to you... or me."

"That's so sweet, I'm touched.  And my arm?  What did you do?  It's all scorched up and dented!  This is gonna cost me a fortune to fix!"

"Not if... I fix it for you."

"I'm not letting you anywhere near me, especially with your... grubby hands.  Yeah, you've got grubby hands."

"I've got one of the best repair shops in the city, you're not gonna find someone who does what I do better.  Or if you do, for cheaper."

"Alright, say I bite, what do you charge?"

"Well, since you saved our lives, I'll call a simple repair job Even Stevens."

"Even what?"

"Nothing, it's an old TV show.  So, what do you say?  Yes or no?"

She stood where she was and thought.  Maybe this guy is genuine.  But another part of her knew He's either trying to kill you or get in your pants.  Be careful, girl.  She made up her mind.

"If you say you're the best augment engineer, I guess I have to take your word for it.  Got a ride?"

"I do, but I need to go, like, a hundred feet that way to call it, I'll be right back."  He ran a little ways before turning around and shouting "YOU WON'T REGRET THIS" back to the woman, and pulling his phone out again to call his hover-bike.  He walked back across the street to stand with her until his ride came.

"Thank you..." she held her broken arm with her other one

"For what?"

"Saving me, dumbass."

"I didn't do that; you did."  He looked straight ahead, and she swore, if he wasn't wearing that mask, she would've seen the real man smiling.

"I was unconscious."

"I don't remember that."

"You PUNCHED me in MIDAIR."

"I have no recollection of the event of which you speak."

"Ass"

"I've got one of those."

She liked him.  She liked how smart he was, how quick his mind was.  He outplayed her not once, but twice and she fell for it both times.  The bike pulled up in front of them and G0bl1n got very squeamish.

"Sorry about that, you're gonna have to get on the back... behind me."

"I'll stand."

"That's not safe-"

"I'll stand."

"Whatever floats your goat!"  He climbed on the bike to drive, and the woman he was just standing with does a 360 twist front flip and lands on the back of his bike with a ten point stuck landing.

"Shall we go?"

He drives off towards the hideout, and after bringing her inside, Sledge was more confused than anything else.  

"Gobby, who's this?"

"I tazed her arm so hard it broke, so I'm fixing it."

"You do know she tried to kill you, right?"

She yelled from the other room, arm currently in the possession of Jeremy, who took his mask off.  "Maim, or seriously injure, not kill."

Jeremy stands still and just looks at her for a second.  "Wow... thanks.  I feel so much better after you tried to whip me with a flail that come out of your arm."

"Comes with the territory.  To be honest, I thought you were trying to kill me."

"Not kill, just maim or seriously injure."  He gives a small smile to the woman sitting down across a small table from him.  "I guess we haven't introduced ourselves."

"You mean, yourself.  You called big hunk over there 'Sledge' and I'm guessing you're some sort of Gnome... Hobgoblin... Green Gob-"

"That's close, but owned by someone else.  I'm G0bl1n, and yeah, that's sledge, and this is DEDSEC.  We're hackers who bring information to the world at large.  Sledge is my 'man-in-the-chair,' and I'm..."  He drops to a whisper.  "Shafted with the guy that actually does everything."

Sledge yelled from the other room.  "I heard that!"

Jeremy shrugged and continued his repairs on her arm.  "I didn't catch your name?"

This made her step back, taking her by surprise.   Not twenty minutes ago, this guy was willing to ram her through a spike in an elevator shaft or electrocute her.  Now he's making small talk with her?  She answered him honestly.

"Kim Ono."

"Kimono?  That's pretty cool, are you Japanese or something?"

She was stunned again, not at the question, because she was undoubtedly Japanese, but that they thought that was her call sign.  She laughed.

"Yeah, full blooded."

Jeremy continued working on the arm, Kimmy looking on in quiet wonder.  She stayed there the whole night, and Sledge even offered to set up camp for her on one of the couches while Jeremy worked through the night to fix the arm.  She politely declined, but Sledge insisted, and when Sledge insists on something, most people follow his instruction.  The same went for Kimmy.  She kindly took he blankets and pillows Sledge handed her and curled up on the sofa Jeremy usually sleeps in.  Well, "Usually" is a weird turn of phrase, as Jeremy didn't actually use that bed.  It was designated by the two of them where the bed Kimmy was sleeping on was HIS, but more times than not, Jeremy would be staying up all night making, testing, redesigning, retesting, and finishing more gadgets than he could carry with a hundred people.  His shop was basically the basement that their hacking room branched off of.  Jeremy had one table where he tinkered, surrounded by mills and drill presses.  More times than not he'd crash there, and Sledge would cover him with a blanket before going to bed himself.  Kimmy fell asleep to the sound of quiet jazz, soft trombones mixing with the trumpets and sending her straight to sleep.

She woke up the next morning to the smell of fresh coffee, and the sound of light tings on metal.  Kimmy sat up stretching, looking around for the weird noise.  It didn't take long before she realized who it was.  She leaped out of bed and ran to the workshop to see how Jeremy was doing.  She rounded the corner to enter the shop to see Jeremy sitting there with her arm.

"What the HELL did you do to my arm?"

She looked at him in horror, as Jeremy had spent what looks like the entire night dismantling the arm, and laying its pieces out.

"I had to make sure any internal wiring or motors weren't damaged.  Oh, and I also checked for bugs and trackers.  Turns out..." He picks up a small cube.  "You've got a tracker on you.  I wanted to wait until you were 'oot nd aboot' before I smashed this thing to bits.  Wanna hold the hammer?"

She ran towards him, hands out in protest, yelling at him to not smash it.  Jeremy started to lift the hammer into the air, but Kimmy lunged at him, knocking the hammer out of his hand... and the both of them onto the floor, Kimmy on top of Jeremy.

"Oh, um" Jeremy began.  "Hi."

"Yeah... um.  Heya."  They looked into each other's eyes and saw not enemies or rivals, but something more... friendly.  Maybe more than friendly, Jeremy didn't know how to read women.  Sledge knocked on the door frame, asking coyly if he was interrupting anything... important.  Kimmy quickly got off of Jeremy and replied that there wasn't anything going on, just a misunderstanding.  Sledge grinned and stroked his beard while he walked away, and Jeremy shrugged after Kimmy turned around to look at him.  The rest of that day was filled with coffee runs (tea for Sledge), and putting together Kimmy's arm, sans tracking device.  At the end of the day, Kimmy walked up to Jeremy, sitting in the same spot as this morning and asked him how close he was to being done.  After picking up the arm and twisting a couple screws in, he handed it to Kimmy.

"About that done.  Now how's that for service?"

She was about to answer, but she was cut off by knocks at the door.  That wasn't Sledge, he knew the key PIN by memory.  No one knew where they were, and Jeremy knew Sledge didn't order anything off of the internet, he always goes to people to buy stuff.  This was someone dangerous.  An intruder.  Jeremy tossed Kimmy's arm back at her, and she slotted it into place.  Jeremy pressed the button on his neck to become G0bl1n, and moved to the door, pulling his shock pistol at the same time.  Kimono put what was left of her mask back on and jumped up the stairs much faster and quieter than G0bl1n could have.  G0bl1n walked up the stairs, realizing that if he came to the door with his mask on, whoever was at the door would know it's him.  He demasked himself, but kept his pistol out... just in case.  He opened the door to see two guys in white suits, one with glasses.  The one with glasses spoke up.

"Sir you have something that belongs to us and we'd like for you to come with us to return it."

"Give me one second."  He closed the door and opened it back up immediately.

"WHAT?  What are you guys talking about?  I've never stolen a thing in my life, let alone something from you fine, upstanding gentlemen!  And how will you guarantee my safety, huh?  There's..." He opened the door just enough to poke his head through the crack and close it again.  "There's squirrels trying to get me.  I swear to god, guys, they're on to me.  They're trying to take over the world, they're planning something."  He closed the door again, leaving the two men on the outside very confused.

"Should we just leave?  This guy's wacko."

"No.  We have to retrieve Mr. Odonovitch property.  By any means necessary."  He pulled out a pistol with live rounds.  "ANY means necessary."



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