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Con City - Excerpt Two

Joanna was sitting in the kitchen of Annie's Downtown apartment, feeling surprisingly good. Annie's abode had the look and feel of a modern apartment, furnished to meet the needs of a single woman in the 21st century. The kitchen was easily the most modern part of it all, filled with top-of-the-line appliances and boasting a futuristic dining set with tubular silver legs and milk-white tops. Joanna felt like Annie could rent out the apartment to a science fiction film crew if she wanted to. The idea made her smile.

By the time she finished the breakfast Annie had prepared for her, her mood significantly worsened. She was not particularly optimistic about the hackers she was about to visit, but she had no other choice.

`Are you sure you don't want a sandwich to take with you?' Annie asked before Joanna could have disappeared.

`No, I'll be fine. Thank you for everything, Annie. I owe you one.'

`Don't mention it, it's the least I could do.'

`Still...' she insisted, trying hard not to let her fearful emotions show on her face.

`Where are you going? Do you know where to find them?'

`I think I do. I've traced them to a derelict building. It's not certain but such a place is a good hideout for a group of hackers. It's a good place to start.'

`Okay then. Good luck!'

They hugged and said goodbye, then Joanna left the apartment. She took the elevator down, waved to the security guard by the elevator, then left the building. She took a cab and told the driver to head to New East Side Con City.

She tried to relax in the back seat but she couldn't. She just watched as the skyscrapers swept by one after the other. She barely even noticed when they left the Downtown and entered the New East Side. The two districts looked pretty much the same. The only difference was that the New East Side was less crowded and less noisy.

She told the driver to stop two blocks from her true destination. She paid the driver, got out, and waited for the cab to leave. Then she walked the rest of the way. She felt silly for being so paranoid, but she didn't want to take chances. Just a day ago she had assumed that the hitman could not find her, and now her uncle was dead because of it.

She shook these thoughts from her head and hastened her footsteps. Not much later she arrived in front of the ruins of the Leonard Building, a tall skyscraper that burned down a few years ago.

The Leonard Building looked like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. While most of it had crumbled to dust, the majority of the metal frame held, rising all the way to what used to be the penthouse floor. A couple of the lower levels still had actual floors and walls intact, but they looked so unsafe that not even homeless people dared to use them for shelter.

Joanna was amazed that the metal frame was still standing, but she did not ponder over the efficiency of modern architecture. She entered the building and looked for the cellar.

She found a set of narrow stairs and quickly descended them. At the bottom of the stairs she found a locked metal door. She knocked. There was no response. She knocked again. She waited. Long minutes passed but no one came. She sat down by the door and turned on her laptop. She was looking for a wireless signal. She found a very strong encrypted signal. She smiled. Now she was certain she had come to the right place.

She got to work on cracking the encryption and in one minute she was on the wireless network. She started looking for other computers on the network. She found four terminals and a mainframe. She looked for the presence of any users on the network. Eventually she found a user called brothersamantha. The user was working on a console. Joanna hacked into the console and started typing messages to the user. She typed the following.

[guest@cmnet]$ Hello? Is anyone there? This is Joanna Bennett. I'm looking for the group known as the Cybermonks. I have information for you that you will be most interested in.

She waited for several minutes. She got no response, but she was disconnected. She tried reconnecting but found that the encryption protocol had been changed. It took her a minute but she hacked in again. She found the console and started sending messages to the local user again.

[guest@cmnet]$ I'm back. Don't bother trying to kick me out, I'll just hack in again. I mean you no harm. I just want to talk.

This time she received a response. She smiled. She had managed to strike up a conversation with the Cybermonks.

[brothersamantha@cmnet]$ Who are you? How did you get into our network?

[guest@cmnet]\$ My name is Joanna Bennett. I have information for you about the recent hacking attacks on Pipe Software. I was an outside security consultant for them.

[brothersamantha@cmnet]$ I don't know what you've heard but we had nothing to do with that.

[guest@cmnet]$ I know. That's why I'm here. I know that you've been framed.

[brothersamantha@cmnet]$ Then what do you want?

[guest@cmnet]$ I know who framed you. I also know how you could get even with them. With my help, you could fuck them over real good.

[brothersamantha@cmnet]$ I'm listening.

[guest@cmnet]$ No. Not over the network. I want a personal meeting.

[brothersamantha@cmnet]$ Out of the question.

[guest@cmnet]$ I'm right outside your front door. I won't trouble you long.

[brothersamantha@cmnet]$ Impossible. Nobody knows where we are.

[guest@cmnet]$ How do you think I hacked into your system so easily? It's not a remote connection. I'm on your local wireless network.

[brothersamantha@cmnet]$ Fine. I'll send someone out. Go offline, and don't move!

[guest@cmnet]$ Okay.

Joanna severed the connection and initiated the shutdown sequence on her laptop. A minute later the metal door opened and a young man showed up there. He was dressed in casual street clothes. He appeared to have a gun in his right jacket pocket. The gun was pointing at Joanna.

`That's not necessary,' she said. `I'm unarmed and I'm here to help you.'

`We'll see,' the young man said. `Put the laptop down, stand up, and face the wall!'


For more, please proceed to the novel Con City.