Hacked warriors of light.., p.1
Hacked (Warriors of Light Book 5), page 1
EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ®
Copyright© 2016 April Zyon
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Editor: Jessica Ruth
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Warriors of Light, 5
Copyright © 2016
Holly had always been one of those people who had been different, who had been more than a little … insane. At least that was what her parents had tried to tell her when they’d dropped her off at the county children’s home. She knew differently, though. She knew she wasn’t crazy. She was actually very intelligent.
They hadn’t sent her away because she was a bad child or a hell-raiser. Overall, she had been very quiet and good, but they hadn’t understood her constant need for mental stimulation, so they shook their heads, then wiped their hands of her.
So, she hadn’t fought her parents’ decision. She hadn’t grumbled or complained. Instead, she’d embraced the solitude and done with it as she pleased. She’d actually lived, and her mind had flourished. Inside of the facility, Holly had found herself in a niche that had longed to be filled. And fill it, she had.
For a number of years, Holly had pretended to fit in with the status quo—she did the studies that she was supposed to do and interacted where she should interact. She had even found herself making friends.
However, she soon discovered that she did better with computers than she did with people. By the time she was a teenager, she’d programmed the computers at the home. She had earned her keep by making sure each and every single thing that was technological was running at the highest peak possible. And if she sometimes got a little lonely, well, she could deal. But that was then and this was now. Now Holly had her own home. She had her own apartment, job, and stability that she hadn’t had before.
She attributed much of her success to the way she had grown up—curious and ready to take on the world. She’d also found that she loved the challenge of breaking into systems, which had led her to one so heavily encrypted she wasn’t sure what was right and what was wrong, or even what it really was.
Giddy glee—that’s what flowed through her as she bypassed system after system. It made her all kinds of happy to finally have a challenge that was worth her time. She all but rubbed her hands together and danced in her seat while pushing the wire-rimmed glasses back on her nose and clipping the long fall of raven’s-wing-black hair back up behind her head. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll get it cut. The same lie she always told herself.
Tonight, however, oh tonight is a very, very good night. She snickered as she played cat and mouse with the security features built into the firewall of the business she was hacking and chewed her lip while moving through files. She read at a lightning-fast pace, taking in the information in the data banks faster than a Borg assimilated humans in Star Trek. Oh yes, this is some very good stuff indeed.
She stopped at a file that had been one of the two hardest to open and gulped. “What the heck?” she muttered, moving her mouse off the information to make the print larger. I have to be reading it wrong, because there’s no way the dates are correct.
Printing off the data, she leaned back in her chair, kicked her booted feet up onto the metal desk, and frowned. “Methinks I have perhaps fallen into someone’s manuscript.” She had a mile-wide grin on her face. She loved science fiction and paranormal novels. And this one looks like it’s going to be a hell of a read.
Holly scanned through the outlines for each of the heroes of the manuscript, getting sucked in deeper with every turn of the page. “The author did a lot of research on Gaius and Alexander the Great. This is seriously awesome. Too bad they didn’t turn it into a romance, because that’s the best-selling genre out there.” She flipped more, then frowned. “Huh. Wonder who in the world this Mercury character is supposed to be. Maybe he’s going to be the missing link or something like that? It will be interesting to learn just how the author spins this one.”
Quickly pivoting in her chair, she pulled up the Internet space and tossed together a website for “Unknown Author” and the series he or she was writing about, The Guardians, also known as The Guardians of the Light, and became the writer’s number one fan. “Oh, wonder if they have a social media presence?” she asked herself and began to look for any trace of the author via Facebook, Twitter, and even the new site, Tsu. “Huh. Weird. Oh well, likely they want to wait until the first book comes out before they burst onto the scene. I can’t wait.”
Muttering under his breath, James gently pressed a button on the keyboard. When nothing exploded, he let out a relieved breath. Taking a chance, he pushed another one, then another. “I was born in the wrong time for this crap, Mercury,” he said over his shoulder.
“Quit bitching, cowboy, and keep looking. I’m older than you are and seem to have a better handle on this than you do.”
A glance over to the other man showed him to be using all his fingers to type on the keyboard before him. “Then why the fuck am I in here? One wrong push of a button, and I could kill this bloody nightmare of technology.”
“Because you have your task and I have mine. And until one of the ladies born of this time frame awakens with the power over computers, and has a clue what we should do, we continue to fucking hunt and peck our way through this.”
James stuck his tongue out, crossed his eyes, and shook his head at the other man. He got a middle finger in response. Oddly, it made him feel a lot better. “I get not waking them up at the crack of dawn when you figured out what was setting off the alarms. But why the hell haven’t you gone to get one of them now?”
“If I send you, you’ll never come back. If I go, the chances are good you’ll do something even I, with my mediocre skills, can’t fix. And don’t say go let Helen out to fix this. She could very well cripple us. The fact she didn’t while she had the opportunity still confuses me.”
“Especially since she was more than fine with selling our locations to the highest evil bidder,” James muttered.
“Precisely. So, she stays where she is, and we figure this out ourselves. Hopefully before whatever this is cripples us instead.” Mercury threw his arms up. “Yes! Finally.”
“What? You figured out what the beeping is all about?”
“Hell no, but I finally got into the right directory to see if there’s a problem with one of the systems.”
James could only blink at the other man. “Is that good?”
“Very. According to what I’ve learned leaning over Helen’s shoulder all this time is that she made the backside of the system very simple in case of an event like this. She gave me a tour of it all. She also told me that while the coding side is beyond complicated, the face of it is a simple point and click. That there would be flags of varying colors dependent on the threat level, or problem, which would appear on each of the directories that get you into various portions of this mess.”
Scratching at his jaw, James nodded slowly. “Hate to tell you this, but that there sounds like a load of shit.”
Mercury shot him a smug look and waved a hand at his screen. “Directories, folders, and nifty little flags to indic
Sliding his chair closer to Mercury’s, James squinted at the screen. “Okay, so what does the little pirate flag mean?”
“There.” James pointed.
“She never told me,” Mercury said. He grabbed a binder off one of the shelves and flipped through it. “Hacker.”
“That would be bad, right?”
“Very. This is from an outside source.”
“Really? Well, isn’t that a complete shock?” James said sarcastically. Given everyone in the mountain was lucky to figure out a cell phone’s basic features, like calls, it wasn’t a surprise that they had outside trouble. “Why don’t you see if one of those Marines has some computer expertise? They all are used to top secret and shit like that. It would be better than one of us poking around in something that could screw us up.”
Mercury frowned, then nodded slowly. “They did all sign confidentiality clauses. And they know we aren’t kidding when we said we’d kill them for breaking it. First, though, we need to know what’s in this directory.”
Clicking on the folder, they then had to search for the little pirate flag again. It appeared that there were more file folders in the original.
“There,” James said, pointing at another one.
Mercury got them into it and discovered only two files. Both of which had the little pirate flags over them. Opening one, the big man began to curse in his native tongue. “We need someone with a lot of expertise, I think.” Pushing up from his chair, he moved for the door. He stalled there and turned to look at James. “Don’t touch anything.”
“Sir, yes sir.” He snapped a lazy salute, grinning when Mercury glowered at him before departing. James looked back to the screen. Figuring he’d better satisfy his curiosity before Mercury returned, he eased closer to the computer. His eyes went wide as he read. “Holy mother of God.”
“Mercury, sir, I think you’ll want to see this.”
Looking up, Demaratus saw the young Marine waving over the base’s commanding officer. While he was wary of having humans around, he did appreciate the fact that many of them had knowledge of things that the older warriors did not.
“What is it?” Mercury muttered when he rolled his chair over to where the lad was working.
“It looks like the files that were taken from your site were put onto another site. The person that took them apparently believes that it’s an author’s work.”
For a long time, it was oddly silent in the room. “They think it’s for a book?” Mercury asked in a tone that went from his normal deep one to something in a much higher pitch.
The Marine shifted in his seat, looking uncomfortable. “Yes, sir, it would appear so. They’ve set up pages for what they think are various books. Works of fiction, from what I’m reading. They have tabs for each, with a description of the hero and what looks like a sneak peek of the work. It’s being called ‘reality-based fiction’.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Gaius asked.
“It means they think that this author is using figures from history to create his, or her, stories. Everyone is up on the site, except for Mercury. But he’s also the only one that doesn’t have a file on the base system.”
Everyone looked toward Mercury, who ignored them all. Demaratus found it interesting, yet not particularly odd, that the one who had started the guardians didn’t have a file to be hacked.
“We need to shut the site down, permanently,” Mercury was saying.
“I can try, sir, but you really should have the one that created it do it. Given the level of hacking required to break through all your firewalls, safeties, and other traps that were put into place, she probably has backdoors so that she’d be able to put it right up again as soon as I shut it down. And she’ll likely put in some form of a password that wouldn’t let me even attempt it the next time around.”
Frowning, Mercury nodded slowly. Demaratus knew the man’s mind was working fast and hard on the problem. While this technology wasn’t any of their fields of expertise, not one of them was an idiot. They could all think logically and strategically when it came to fighting a foe, even one unseen.
“Can you tell me where this person is?”
“Maybe, sir. Let me…” The Marine turned to face the computer, his fingers flying over the keyboard as images, words, and things Demaratus couldn’t understand popped up onto the screen, vanished, or morphed into something else.
“Best I can figure, sir, the person’s in Nevada,” the Marine muttered. “Damn, this one’s bouncing their signal around like a deranged Mexican jumping bean. There,” he said. “That’s as close as I can get you right now. If we got some equipment on the ground, we could narrow it down, but with whatever they’ve got going on with their system to protect it, and themselves, I can’t do any more from here.”
Leaning around one of the others in the room, Demaratus frowned at the monitor. The spot the Marine was pointing to was just southwest of Vegas. Damn close. Really damn close.
“Demaratus, take Alexander with you and a couple of the Marines to collect this individual. Say nothing, but black bag their ass back here. We need answers, and we need to know if this person is a threat or just an idiot.”
“We’ll also have to confiscate all the equipment,” the Marine added as he got to his feet. “It’ll help me figure out how the site was constructed and ensure that they can’t ever do it again.”
“Right, bring anything and everything back relating to us or to this person’s online activities.”
Sliding off the desk, Demaratus nodded. “Understood, sir.” The part that no one had to say, but he read in Mercury’s eyes, was that if this person was in less than perfect health upon their arrival at the base, Mercury wouldn’t be all that displeased. Might even thank him in the end. Not that Demaratus would set out to cause harm. It wasn’t in his nature. But he also wasn’t about to allow anyone to undermine the work they did or expose them to the public unnecessarily.
“Oh, someone is being very naughty,” Holly said as she saw the flag pop up to alert her that someone had tried to get into her system. “Not so easy, is it, sunshine?” She backtracked the hack and laughed. “Oh, you are so close. Wait, this is where the files came from…” She hummed, a sucker in her mouth, as she let her fingers fly.
She also put in an order for pizza. After all, a woman has to eat, right? She swiveled in her chair and grinned once the hack was complete. “There, hope that whoever you are, you like furry porn, you asshat.” She didn’t like anyone touching her systems. It irritated her like mad.
When the doorbell rang, she looked at the screen and frowned. Well, that’s not pizza. She opened the com and asked, “Who are you, and why are you here?”
“United States Marine Corps, ma’am. Could we have a word, please?” the one in front answered. He was holding up identification and in full dress blues as he stared into the camera. He didn’t look all that surprised that it was there. In fact, the guy looked bored, if anything at all.
“Huh, I don’t know if I talk to Marines. You see, I dated one back in the day, and he went all gung ho and left me high and dry.” She lied through her teeth as she began to dump her systems and delete the files on them. “You are also a redhead, which, sorry, but I can’t trust redheads, so I’m going to have to pass on the whole having a word sort of thing.”
Something hard pressed to her temple. “Lift your hands away now.” The warning was low and chilling with the added pressure of whatever was against her skin.
A growl sounded from behind the weapon. “Let the Marines in. They’re the ones that wanted this crap.”
A faint frown flitted over the other man’s face, but he nodded slowly. He went to the door and pulled it open. “She was attempting to do something to her systems. I pulled the plugs on everything here, so hopefully something will still remain from her antics.”
One of the Marines, not the one who had been on camera, moved in closer to her desk as he looked at everything. “We’ll have to make sure we don’t plug anything in until I’ve got a better idea of what she’s done.”
“You’re just no fun. I haven’t done anything bad,” she grumbled, crossing her arms defiantly over her chest. She looked sideways at the man holding a gun to her head and gasped. “It’s you. I don’t understand. You’re just a dream.” She couldn’t believe it. The man she had dreamed of most of her life stood there before her. A man who had comforted her when she had been a child and helped her embrace her gift for all things electronic. “How can you be here? You aren’t real.”
The man with short blond hair gave a laugh and said something in a guttural language to him. He responded in the same language, she was guessing, with something that sent the one in front of her into a fit of laughter.
One of the Marines moved closer and smiled. “Hands behind your back, please.” He spoke in a tone that told her it wasn’t a suggestion.
“Not on your life. I would rather have them in front of me. If you wouldn’t mind, that is.” She shifted, then added, “Besides, what do you want with me? I haven’t done anything.” Too bad.
by April Zyon / Paranormal / Romance / Ebooks have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes