The Bad Guy Wins in This One - Chapter Sixteen (Jace)

This work is tedious, even for me. There’s never anything but porn stashes and secret bank accounts. And all these middle aged men don’t even have good taste in porn. I mean, what the hell is this, grannies with studs 2? Are you serious? I can’t unsee this. I pray to God I never come across the first one. Do I get hazard pay for this? No, cuz’ what we’re doing is totally illegal and I’m supposed to be a desk jockey analyzing expense reports. Does Robert have to deal with this crap? Of course not, I’m sure his A.I. just screens out filthy crap like this.

Jace Colton was not having a good month. As General Hargrave’s top hacker by several orders of magnitude, it mostly was on him to try and figure out if anyone connected to Isabella Rhinefield’s life also had ties to any secret organizations or secretly profited from the destruction of Sunlight City. He didn’t know how real hackers did it, spending weeks on end downloading root kits and crap to try and exploit system weaknesses. His power let him find and access their secrets directly, bypassing all their electronic security measures as if they didn’t exist at all.

Unfortunately it required him to actually see the results of his searches. Bad porn, burned into my mind. So much of it. Aghghg. I’m going to become some sort of horrible pervert just to keep my sanity. He was beginning to think that none of the business associates of Leonard Rhinefield were involved in the incident. It was a shame, since Shelly’s father was extremely wealthy and as such his business contacts would seem likely candidates to be involved in a shadowy organization. But if any were, they’d left not a single trace of it on any computer with access to the internet.

“Hey, we got it!” Michelle said, clapping him on the back.

“Got what?” Jace asked absentmindedly.

“The kid’s computer. The ex-boyfriend who killed himself. His mother actually signed a release, giving it to us legally,” she said with excitement. She held an old laptop up for him to see. Jace tried to remember who she was talking about and then recalled they’d found some video and IM chats between Isabella and some kid in Storm Valley. Seemed like a waste of time to him, but then he realized a teen boy might at least have better porn.

“I call it!” he said, suddenly excited, sitting up straight in his chair. Michelle pouted cutely behind her large glasses.

“That’s not fair. This is something any of us could do. We have plenty of time and no legal issues to worry about.”

“Yeah, but you can’t just do this,” he said, reaching out a hand and touching the laptop. His mind felt a tugging sensation and suddenly he was in it. The data swam around him and he smiled. Nothing was amiss on the surface. Music, games, and school reports. Larry. That’s right, his name is Larry. Well hello Larry, what secrets do you have for me?

He checked the trash and saw that his mother had thrown out his porn folder before handing over the laptop. Didn’t even bother to empty the recycle bin or encrypt it. Amateurs, the both of them, not that it would have stopped me. Images of adorable anime girls washed over him and he smiled. Better than grannies, that’s for sure.

He looked for any hidden files and saw some trails. He walked down them, passing through barriers of encryption as if he were a ghost. He thought the mental representation was a bit strange since it would be more accurate if he were the guy with all the keys, the data decrypting in his mind automatically. He was through though.

Now this is odd. He found traces of deleted files and web pages describing encryption methods in detail. This kid had been studying how to hide his information pretty extensively for at least a couple years. He saw chat logs between him and Isabella Rhinefield hidden behind some heavy duty firewalls. Why did he hide this and not his porn? He found out in a moment when he stumbled over Larry’s real porn folder.

“Awww, tentacles. Why? Oh God why are there tentacles? It’s raping my mind.”

“Serves you right,” Michelle said.

He pulled himself away from Larry’s perverted tastes, wondering if there were any laws yet for accidentally being exposed to lolicon, and kept looking through the other hidden files, feeling a bit sick. He thought about taking a break, but sometimes he had to re-see everything to go any further in a system he’d left. Nope, not doing that again. I feel dirty enough already.

Oh my, now here’s something. There were videos of Larry shooting out sparks from his hands, hidden behind ridiculous levels of encryption. Hate poetry against Isabella Rhinefield following her breaking up with him. Interesting. Very interesting. So Larry was gifted and hated his ex-girlfriend. He kept digging, searching through the ghosts of files that had been deleted. It only took him another minute before he found the suicide note. This is…They’d all read the suicide note found with the boy’s body, but it scarcely read anything like this deleted copy.

He backed out of the computer, normal senses returning to him with a snap. He turned to Michelle and grimaced.

“It’s him. He was the one who caused it. But something seems…off. I can’t figure out what it is though. Ok, listen up everyone. Stop what you’re doing and pull absolutely everything you can on Larry Mulheim. Someone call the General and have him get Robert from Marco’s team to help work on it. He’s good at this sort of stuff.” Maybe even better than me.

“Who is Robert?” Michelle asked. “And how do you know his name? We’re not supposed to be in contact with anyone on their team.” Jace tried not to look at her like she was stupid.

“He’s Marco’s hacker, though that’s actually a bit of a misnomer. His gift works a little differently than mine, but the bottom line is we both thought it might be helpful to actually know who we’re working with and hacked into each other’s systems. That guy…is pretty damn impressive. He created an A.I. that could actually defend itself against my abilities. I don’t think Marco would be half as good at his research if Robert wasn’t using an A.I. army to assist him with data compilation.”

“The security measures are in place for a reason, you know. What we’re doing isn’t exactly legal.”

“Yeah, well I guess it’s good that we got this laptop through legal means then. Now come on, we got a lot of work to do.” He turned his attention back to the laptop. How did you go from making sparks to blowing up a city? Hate to do this to a dead kid, but your life is about to be pried open with some crowbars, Larry Mulheim.