Cyn’s car pulled onto Ivan’s block as they prepared to drop him off at home, but the street was blocked with fire trucks and emergency vehicles.
“Tell me that isn’t YOUR building on fire,” said Cyn. She launched a small recon drone to get a better look.
“Oh shit,” gasped Ivan, as the grainy infrared showed the blast marks around each of his windows. “They blew up my apartment!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll bet they grabbed your computers first,” said Batou.
“That’s not reassuring,” said Ivan. “I’m totally burned here. This is bad.” His stomach dropped at the thought of his identity being so deeply compromised. “People are trying to kill us.”
“Someone’s not happy about us knocking on the door of their server. I don’t think any of us should go home right now, actually,” muttered Cyn, as she pulled up some footage of her own house being picked through by a police squad.
“That’s your place?” asked Ivan. “Why are the police there?”
“Some kind of drug deal reported to be going down inside, which led to a shootout between rival gangs, details are sketchy right now, but there are dead bodies in my place,” said Cyn, sounding disturbed.
“That’s a crazy hack, luring rival gangs into a drug deal right inside your place!” laughed Batou. “Why bother?”
“To show us they can,” said Cyn coldly. “Care to find out what capabilities they are demonstrating at YOUR place?”
“I’ve got live alerts on my place at all times,” said Batou. “Nothing is amiss.” He paused, thinking this over for a minute. “Oh fuck. That’s the biggest mindfuck of the three. I don’t dare go back.”
“But I’m the only one with a partner here, right?” said Ivan nervously.
“We better warn your girlfriend,” agreed Cyn. “But it sounds like she’s gonna be too busy, uh, getting busy, to answer the phone.”
“Don’t Cyn, just stop,” said Ivan. Her teasing was too close to home. Ivan really did worry about this guy Jayson. He was a powerful CEO founder after all. “I hate to do this, but I can put a trace on Bryce’s phone and find Jayson’s address.”
“I think you’d better do it, we need a place to crash tonight,” said Batou.
Ivan ran the trace and fed Cyn the coordinates of Bryce’s phone.
“Marina district? What’s up with this guy?” asked Cyn.
“Founder,” explained Ivan tersely. His gut clenched at the thought of his girlfriend ending up at a billionaire’s compound after a night of drinking, but he tried to put it out of his mind.
Cyn’s car streaked down the streets of San Francisco, streetlights flickering rhythmically in the background as the trio contemplated their fate.
“So yeah, this is utterly fucked up,” said Cyn, flicking screens of data into the shared workspace at a frenetic pace.
Ivan tried to follow her train of thought as the windows piled up. A lot of chat screens spun by. People on /r/AnonAttackSequence were freaking out over the deployment of munitions in downtown Oakland.
“Okay, so it looks like The Legion has predictably splintered in some recent operation,” murmured Batou, following the threads faster than Ivan could keep up.
“Yeah, no one is claiming responsibility for that counterattack after we nearly popped their c2 server in China,” replied Cyn. She dumped an incomprehensible cluster of data into the workspace.
“And they don’t know the worst of it,” sighed Ivan. “No mention of your apartment attack yet.”
“So wait, what?” Ivan asked, trying to keep up. His mind was too distracted by his girlfriend’s potential infidelity to follow the conversation properly.
“Ivan, get your head out of your ass,” snapped Cyn. “We got jammed up into some sort of AnonOp bullshit.”
“That’s too heavy of a response to be Anon,” recited Ivan, as his mind focused on the problem at hand.
“Tell me about it,” agreed Cyn. She scratched her chin in confusion.
“Yeah, it doesn’t make sense. And the boards agree, they are crying like babies over there. No other Anon thinks that shit was cool.” Batou swiped the windows aside and laid down on the floor of the cab so he could think.
“Fuck it, we are here,” said Cyn. She made a face at Ivan. “You wanna call your partner or are we going to have to ring the bell?”
“She hasn’t answered any of my calls in the last hour,” admitted Ivan.
“Nice,” muttered Cyn. They were parked on a quiet street in an exclusive section of town. The street was lined with huge homes that wouldn’t particularly seem like mansions in a different housing market. She launched a few light surveillance drones to survey the area. “Shit, lots of jamming around here,” she gasped, as she immediately lost contact with her units.
“Yeah, the great and good prefer privacy, don’t you know,” sighed Batou.
“Okay, well, the street seems pretty safe right now, actually,” allowed Cyn, surveying the view from her onboard cameras.
At that moment, a pair of heavy police drones shrieked by overhead, flying low and loud.
“The fuck?” gasped Batou, sitting up suddenly.
“Look at the news,” offered Ivan, pulling up a local feed. “Yep, shit! There is a protest coming this way. Some kind of sudden thing. No permits. Police units are mobilizing. This place is going to be crawling with state and private security any minute.”
He looked at Cyn and Batou. “Do we stay or do we go?”
“We’ve got to stay, we have nowhere to go,” replied Cyn. “Unless you want to try your luck at Batou’s place?”
“Right, to hell with that,” said Ivan. He drew a deep breath and let it out. “Okay, pop the door, let’s see who’s home.”
Cyn issued the codes to open the doors of the cab and Ivan climbed out nervously. He felt the cold night air on his face as he inhaled the salty ocean smell. They were only a block away from the bay. He drew another breath and glanced back into the dim interior of Cyn’s auto. She had left the door open to comfort him, and he ducked instinctively as the police drones swept by overhead again, nearly deafening him with their rotors.
He faced a high concrete wall. He searched back and forth and located the steel garage door and the tiny service door to the side of it. He spotted a keypad and a camera lit by a hooded LED, and he approached it. An AI steward greeted him in a friendly fashion, as Ivan stood before the door, trying to make sense of the keypad.
“Hello, can I help you?” asked the bot.
“I’m here to see Bryce Connor,” said Ivan. He could hear the sound of sirens in the distance and he looked over his shoulder. Cyn still had the door to her auto open and the engine revving.
The AI seemed about to reply with a preprogrammed response, but then froze for a moment. “No one lives here with that name, sorry.”
“I know that. Bryce is visiting and I am her partner,” said Ivan. He gave his public key to the AI, which it accepted. That was progress at least. A proper security system would just ignore the key to keep him out.
“Yes, well, let me ask about this,” said the AI. It was just a standard security AI from LockSafe, which provided security to a lot of homes in this area. It was presenting as a large, muscular man in a tuxedo, wearing sunglasses. The developer even went so far as to put a wire going to an earpiece to complete the realistic security staff effect.
Ivan said nothing and glanced up anxiously as more and more drones arrived overhead, some hovering and some whipping by at insane speeds.
The AI came back to life. “We are entering into a more robust security posture right now, due to local police action. You might want to evacuate the area for your safety.”
“No, you need to let us in, I need to see Bryce,” said Ivan. He dumped an exploit onto the communication channel. It was unlikely to succeed, but it might at least get a human to check out the situation.
The AI froze for a minute and then flashed as it restarted. A human voice squawked out of the metal speaker grill next to the keypad. “You can probably still get away if you leave now. I have notified the authorities of this breach attempt.”
“I’m not leaving. I’m here to see my girlfriend, Bryce,” said Ivan.
“Are you for real, dude?” asked the security person, taken aback.
“Totally,” said Ivan. “But I’m cool. My friends and I just want to come in and take shelter from whatever bullshit is going on right now.”
‘Okay, okay, just uh, let me check with the boss,” said the voice. “Hang tight a sec.”
What’s up? texted Batou.
Hold on, replied Ivan.
“Okay, okay, look, I need all the public keys for your friends and also the car. That shit is crazy. I want to see the inside of that thing when this is over. Totally metal,” said the voice through the fancy speaker grill.
Send keys, Ivan texted Cyn. Within seconds, she complied, and a moment later the garage door opened up, sliding silently in its tracks to reveal a tiny concrete chamber barely big enough to hold Cyn’s vehicle.
I guess we gotta trust the plutocrat at this point, texted Cyn, as her car maneuvered itself into the garage and the the door slid closed. The service door before Ivan clicked open.
“Bryce and Jayson will greet you in the foyer,” said the voice.
Ivan found himself facing a tiny Japanese bridge over a koi pond. The door clicked shut behind him and he looked around to find himself surrounded by cultured bamboo shooting up above the garden wall and screening the nondescript, somewhat modern home of Jayson Marshall, founder of Pareto and Bryce’s boss.
“Fucking plutocrats,” muttered Ivan, as he gingerly crossed the koi pond. Cyn and Batou were emerging into the courtyard where Ivan stood, via a small wooden door in the garage.
A sliding glass door opened and the three of them climbed the steps into a wide, low ceilinged foyer. It was very spare, with a stone tiled floor and low couches composed of slatted wood supports with large beige beanbags on top.
A heavy wooden door opened and Bryce appeared. Ivan’s stomach flipped when he saw her dressed in a thin white t-shirt with bare legs. She trotted down a few steps, the front of her shirt jiggling, as Ivan looked at her suspiciously.
“Christ Bryce, are you wearing anything under that shirt?” he blurted jealously.
“She’s totally naked under there, dude,” chortled Cyn, elbowing Ivan in the ribs.
“Wazzup?” said Batou lecherously.
Bryce’s cheeks colored slightly and she tugged self-consciously at the hem of her shirt. “I mean jeez, you know, I should be asking YOU what the hell you’re doing here?” said Bryce nervously. She was obviously guilty and Cyn gave Ivan a knowing look.
Before Ivan could answer, a thin, long haired guy, shirtless, with a chiseled jaw, emerged from the door above Bryce. His pale blue eyes pierced into Ivan and Ivan noted that the loose fabric of Jayson’s pants matched that of Bryce’s shirt. A thin sheen of sweat covered Jayson’s wiry but well-defined chest.
“You’re wearing his fucking pajama top!” Ivan shouted at Bryce.
Cyn and Batou laughed as Bryce turned beet red, but Jayson just smiled serenely at Ivan.
“Namaste,” said Jayson, putting his hands together and bowing graciously to Ivan and his friends. “Welcome to my home.”
Ivan was taken aback by Jayson’s smooth demeanor. He felt utterly outclassed right off the bat. “Fucking spiritual sociopath,” he whispered to Cyn between clenched teeth. She snorted in derision as Jayson gracefully descended the stairs.
“Friends of Bryce are certainly welcome here, but, as you might have noticed, there is a protest afoot, so please come inside to a more secure area of the compound,” said Jayson. He gestured up the stairs and Ivan had to admit that the bastard had poise.
Bryce didn’t hug Ivan in greeting, but meekly fell into step beside him as he and his friends ascended the stairs with Jayson following behind.
A couple of half naked men and women in Black Rock City drag were lounging in the living room as they entered. Soft electronic music was playing in the background, and Ivan smelled a mixture of pot smoke, alcohol, and some other drug he couldn’t identify. This seemed like a party, but a lot of the partygoers had a hard, military look about them, like they could crush your skull with a Krav Maga kick if they weren’t so stoned. Ivan suspected that this was Jayson’s inner circle and probably composed partially or entirely of his operatives.
“We were totally just hanging out and, uh, I got sleepy and Jayson offered me some clothes to change into,” offered Bryce suddenly.
Ivan squinted at her skeptically and Cyn laughed right in her face.
“Yeah right,” giggled Cyn. She thought this was funny, but Ivan’s heart was pounding.
“Who are you?” sniffed Bryce, turning to Cyn imperiously.
“Bryce,” cautioned Jayson, coming up behind her and putting his arm around her in a familiar way that maddened Ivan. “Maybe we should have a talk with Ivan.”
“What?” gasped Ivan, getting a sense of what was about to come.
But just then there was a heavy thud and a couple of the partygoers perked up visibly, revealing a suspicious lack of inebriation. Ivan stared into space, contemplating his windows.
A muscular young man with a half shaved head, sporting a lightning bolt tattoo on his chest, rose, also staring into space.
“Yeah, that protest looks like it’s climaxing here somehow. That was some kind of explosive and it looks like the automated systems have lit up the microwave towers,” said the young man.
“Microwave?” asked Bryce nervously.
“Area denial,” offered Cyn cryptically, but Bryce just tilted her head cutely at her. “It’ll fry those fucking protesters,” Cyn elaborated, making a clicking sound and pointing her finger.
Bryce cringed back and put her hand to her mouth, eyeing Jayson with fright.
“Purely sublethal, darling,” he said, putting his hands in front of him and making a gentle patting motion. “The protesters would only feel a burning sensation if they tried to enter the compound, but it wouldn’t cause any permanent damage. Of course I am committed to nonviolence.”
“Darling?!” demanded Ivan. He felt the urge to punch Jayson right in his billion dollar mouth.
A topless woman in leather pants with multi-colored hair and numerous piercings burst into the room. Ivan was distracted by her breasts for a moment and lost his train of thought.
“Jayson, we are evacuating, I think,” said the woman. She seemed truly confused and upset and Ivan pulled his mind back to the problem at hand.
There was another dull thud and the lights went out. A Guy Fawkes mask suddenly appeared, projected on the wall by an old fashioned physical projector.
“Hahaha, hello Jayson, we are crashing your party, motherfucker,” shouted the mask through the high end audio system installed in the room, nearly overloading the speakers with its explosive volume.
“Security, report,” shouted Jayson. He grabbed Bryce and dragged her toward the back of the room where the blue haired woman was waving frantically.
“Somebody’s fancy security system just got owned,” shouted Cyn, as she ran after the retreating billionaire.
“Giddyup,” urged Batou, slapping the thunderstruck Ivan on the shoulder and following suit.
“Yeah, Olly says he’s trying to regain control of the house systems, but he’s confirming low level compromise, we have to leave,” shouted the young man with the lightning bolt. “Simon has the yacht coming online now.” He fell in behind Ivan and Batou and shoved them forward.
There was confusion all around him as the party broke up, but Ivan managed to pull up a news feed showing protesters breaching a huge gap in the wall where he had been standing minutes before. Masked twenty somethings were streaming through the gap and into the courtyard, splashing heedlessly through the koi pond, while police drones showered them with rubber bullets.
“Fucking madness,” laughed Cyn as Ivan, Batou, and Lightning Bolt joined her in a narrow hallway.
They came to a gaping hole in the floor, where a hidden hatch had been thrown back, revealing a ladder that led to a blandly lit, carpeted tunnel below. Lightning pushed them toward the hatch.
Cyn resisted and grabbed Ivan and Batou by the lapels. “Fuck this, I’m not jumping on Jayson’s yacht, I’m taking my car out of here.” She released Ivan and poked Lightning in the chest fiercely. “How do we get out to street level?” she demanded.
Lightning looked at her like she was crazy. “You want to go out into that melee?” he asked. “Your car will get torn to pieces.”
“Did you see my car?” she drawled confidently. “I’ll take my chances.”
Lightning appeared to be referencing data as he nodded along. “Holy shit, okay, then just keep going down the hall and out onto the back patio. It’s only about a 12 foot drop to the street. I’m opening the garage, better power up that tank of yours.”
“I only refrained from knocking down your garage door to be polite,” sneered Cyn. “Bullshit civilian door.”
Lightning stopped to look at Cyn for a moment and shook his head. Then he laughed and stepped right into the space beside the open hatch, dropping out of sight with shocking speed.
Ivan was torn as Cyn and Batou raced down the hall toward the back patio.
“Cyn, I don’t know,” he shouted. He looked down the hatch into the strangely mundane looking escape tunnel. Should he follow Bryce and try to get the truth out of her?
“Bullshit!” screamed Cyn from up ahead.
You wanna be on that yacht and at that plutocrat’s mercy, idiot? When he’s clearly banging your gf and would prefer to have you out of the picture? texted Cyn.
“Dammit,” sighed Ivan. He broke into a loping gait after Cyn and Batou. Cyn was right, of course, he would have to confront Bryce on neutral territory, and it would have to happen another day.
When Ivan got to the back patio, he heard a crazed chattering as Cyn’s auto deployed a barrage of non-lethal beanbags to ward off the protesters who choked the alley. The car was parked right below the patio where Ivan stood. Cyn and Batou had already vaulted the ledge and were in the car. The door was still open, inviting him along, while the protesters screamed in pain as the beanbags struck soft tissue, driving them back.
Ivan sighed and awkwardly dangled himself from the edge of the railing, dropped the final four feet to the street, and then rolled into the cab of Cyn’s vehicle. The door hissed shut behind him and the wheels shrieked as the torque engaged. The sound alone seemed to frighten the protesters back as Cyn’s auto violently cannonballed out of the alley and across the lawn of the Palace of Fine Arts, scattering postmodernists as its powerful engines sprayed turf in their aftermath.
“Ahh yes,” said Cyn, making herself comfortable on the floor of the cab. “Looks like we are sleeping here in the car on the way to Arkansas, boys.” She paused for a moment, flipping to her side, her back facing Ivan and Batou. “Can you imagine the shit fit Jayson is throwing right now? Chased out of his own house by 99%’ers? Someone’s losing their job tonight.”
Batou shrugged and joined her on the floor. Ivan looked at her back glumly as she shook with merriment. Cyn didn’t seem very upset about this situation. She liked it when things got crazy, he guessed. He found himself noticing the shape of Cyn’s body, the way her hip curved down to her waist as she lay before him on her side. He liked it. Ivan shook his head to snap himself out of it. He shouldn’t be thinking about things like that. He dropped to the floor of the cab alongside Batou and tried to find a position to nap in that wouldn’t destroy his back.