Hunter knocked a blank DVD from the top of his supersized Alien Ware computer tower. The DVD went rolling over a pile of spliced USB cables. With his right hand, he fished after it and knocked a notebook to the ground. With his left hand on a joystick, he was flying a spaceship and shooting his laser into the empty space instead of the alien in the center of the screen. His eyes got distracted by a receipt from GameStop for Elite Dangerous that Amber had signed with ‘XOXO – Amber.’ The handwriting had big loops and girlie flair. The writing was neat like that of a young girl. There was a bubble gum cheeriness about the typography. ‘Fucking hell!’ yelled Hunter at the shrill beeps of the alarm. He alt-tabbed out of the game.
A text terminal showed that the last command:
‘4,096,000 permutations computed.’
‘Rootkit is installed on the phone.’
Hunter pulled the USB stick and threw it into his Crumpler messenger back along with the bulky black phone that had the case cracked open, wires running out of it, and top secret stamped in red letters on all sides.
Deep underground in a bunker at Fort Meade, Michael had watched the whole scene on his computer. He picked up the red phone and said: ‘Derek, the asset has completed the objective. Bring him in.’
Ruby rested her black, knee-high boots on the foldout table. She was wearing a red and black plaid skirt that showed plenty of her muscular thighs and a white blouse that had only three buttons closed. The pushup bra lifted her cleavage into perfect orbs. She balanced the blue metal foldout chair with fresh paint specks on a single back leg while lazily flipping through the yellow, dog eared pages of ‘On The Road’ by John Kerouac.
‘The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.’
The bare room had the wall paint, tile floor, and ceiling covering stripped. Old newspaper was taped to the store windows. There were two holes: One for the Celstron Omni Series telescope and the other for Ruby to peer out. Across the street in the GameStop, Amber, skinny dancer body and ballet hair bun, was kneeling on the ground stocking games. A black van with tinted windows drove past the store. Ruby picked up her phone with the Hello Kittie figurine dangling from the case.
‘The NSA grab team is moving in position,’ said Ruby in Mandarin.
‘Take him first. Full force is authorized,’ said an old, rough, bossy voice.
Ruby stuffed the black Glock with silencer into the back of her miniskirt and a flying ninja star into her night blue bra.
With a ring-ding of the bells above the door, Hunter pushed the glass door open to the GameStop. His gait was enthusiastic and elated. He walked right up to Amber who was leaning lazily on her forearms at the cashier’s desk. She was wearing a loose silky t-shirt with no bra. A blond strand of hair had fallen into her face across her baby blue eyes.
‘I’ve got reason to celebrate,’ gleamed Hunter. ‘I finally finished the contract. That startup company is going to wire me 10K by tonight. I’m going to treat myself to any game today!’
‘Congratulations, Hunter! I’ll give you a little treat to celebrate. Come here!’ said Amber sweetly. Her finger gave Hunter the come hither signal. Amber looked seductively over her shoulder as she walked into the backroom. The curly haired Hunter with his nicest t-shirt hanging out of his pants followed her behind the curtain. With snake lake dancer moves, Amber girded her body and pulled her t-shirt over her head. Every joint on her body was so supple like a highly trained dancer.
The doorbells chimed. ‘Shit,’ escaped Hunter’s pressed lips. ‘I knew this job was dangerous. They are coming to get me.’ Without questioning Hunter’s paranoia, Amber lead Hunter by the hand out of the back door. She pressed the beeper for the silver Civic in the back alley to open the trunk. Still bare chested, she floors the gas and peels into the alley with fishtailing back tires.
Derek, the NSA point man, arrived to watch the Civic drive off. He took aim with his 9mm, yet it only clicked because the safety was on.
Derek, wearing a uniform for ‘Go Happy Bug Exterminator’ kneeled in front of the door. A green bug poison canister with spray gun stood next to him. He carefully held the tension pick while the second pick searched the pins inside of the lock. The lock gave a soft click. He pushed the door open.
There was a sheetless mattress with yellow sweat stains, three different types of empty Chinese takeout food, a bent spoon with a lighter, a fallen over bottle of Jack, clothes spread out on the floor, a $197,482 college loan bill from Julliard, a white thong with period stain, and three GameStop hats. Derek carefully sifts through each layer of clothing: checking the pockets, running his fingers along the hem for sewn in items, and taking a careful sniff for clues that causes him to turn his head away in disgust.
He finds a half finished suicide note that ends with ‘I don’t know anymore.’ He rubs pencil on the empty page of her notepad to see what was written on the previous page. He plots the addresses of the gas station receipts on his phone map. Finally, there is a scratch lottery ticket with all numbers wrong. A store in the Long Beach Harbor sold it.
There is a police siren outside. Derek quickly punches in Michael’s number to report back. The door flies open. An LAPD cop barges into the room with bulletproof vests and side arm in both hands focused on Derek. The second LAPD cop comes in behind and swoops into the bathroom. ‘I’m NSA,’ yells Derek.
The first cop doesn’t care and smashes Derek’s face into the bent spoon while squeezing the metal handcuffs painfully tight. Michael overhears everything on the dropped phone.
‘Wang ba dan,’ yelled Ruby at the tall lad with thin Asian mustache. The lad backed up scared. The crowd was thick in the Chinatown bazar. The profanity laden Ruby punched a bubble of space in front of her with the filthiest and angriest voice. People with cheap plastic bags backed away from her. At a cart with fake Rolexes, a man in a suit and tie reached to the underside of the cart table to retrieve a yellow posted note for Ruby. Ruby folded it open.
Ruby went back outside to find her black Yamaha YZF-R1M, a big powerful racing bike that was made for the proportions of a man. She swung her leg across the backseat. The engine whined sharply to 9,000 RPM. The crowd went scurrying out of the way in panic. She let the first gear plop in with a clean click. Her mini-skirt fluttered in the draft wind to reveal her thong and the trim porcelain white butt cheeks. Her jet black hair fluttered below her helmet.
On Flower and 6th, she shot across the intersection with 80 mph in between a left turning car and another car blocked by pedestrians. The whoop-whoop of the po-po blew up behind her. She switched to drive up the Harbor Freeway on ramp the wrong way. She shot on the emergency lane past the jammed up traffic. A McDonald wrapper swirled high into the air behind her. The LAPD lieutenant sicked one police car and bike after the next at her. Until Ruby and the last patrol car were alone on the San Pedro Harbor Bridge. She slid her bike sideways to a stop. She raised her Glock to execute the Mozambique drill against the oncoming driver: Two to the chest and one to the head. The lifeless car shot past her by an inch into a bridge pillar.
Amber carefully looks at the side mirrors when she inches the silver Civic in between a rusty green and a banged up orange shipping container. They have to climb out of the window because the doors won’t open. A
mber walks in front of the green container. A blue one is on top of that and ten more stacked higher beyond that. She reaches her slender, yet athletic arms up. ‘Help me up!’
Hunter tries to lift her up by her armpits. However, she is already stepping on his thigh and next on her shoulder like a gymnast. She fumbles with the lock at the bottom of the blue door. The corrugated steel door swings open. She pulls herself up to turn around and reach her hands down to Hunter. They lock the door behind her and look at each other in the low glow of Hunter’s phone screen. He looks at her questioningly. ‘My uncle works in the docks. I know hiding spots here.’
Then, she straddles the hips of the slumped down Hunter. He can feel the tender frame of her body. She reaches under his t-shirt to find his tender nipples. The sense of her feminine fingers sends goose bumps across his body. He looks at her pink lips with desire, hoping yet unsure to reach for them. She knows and peels back part of her lip with her left upper canine to let her lush lips move around for him. His chubby, usually energetic face, turns to mush. ‘Where is the USB?’ she asks.
He pulls the messenger back closer. She gets up turns away from him to pretend to unbutton her jeans, yet instead grabs the messenger back and runs out. The container door slams shut. The pin falls into place with a loud bang. There is silence for a long time. After about an hour, there is the high pitched wine of a winch. A hard clank hits the ceiling. Then, the ground turns swinging.
Michael stood up straight in the government office hallway. The sign next to the door said, ‘Johnson Howard – Divisional Chief.’ He looked at the wallpaper on his phone: Susie, his wife, was holding Tamara on her chest in the hospital bed. The tiny hand of Tamara had a white hospital wristband. He commemorated the photo for minutes with tears at the edge of his eyes.
The wooden door opened. Johnson, wearing a suit, let Michael in and cordially waved at the two visitor chairs at the desk. The room had a carpet, couch, bookshelf, and world globe. A single folded over page was on the leather mat of the desk. The paper was very thin due to recent budget cuts. Michael could see on it the NSA seal, an only three lines long paragraph, and inked signature that bled through.
‘Michael, we rarely tell our employees how much we appreciate their work. You have shown a lot of dedication for over ten years. The United States government and the people are eternally grateful for your service…’
Michael cut Johnson off, ‘I know where you are going. I have an off the book op running. A private security consultant has found a zero-day attack in the global world command communication system. The flaw is in the core design and cannot be patched.’
Johnson looked at Michael surprised and intrigued, ‘That would mean the cancellation of the project. The budget would be transferred to my department. How could you let such secret technology leave the premises?’
Night had fallen. The dock workers with the yellow safety helmets high fives each other as they walked out of the crane. Ruby slipped closer to the Valerian, a cargo boat that listed to the left. At the water’s edge, where the cool tiny waves rippled between the dock and the boat, she grabbed the fist-sized rope. Legs over the rope, body underneath, she pulled herself over to the. Once on the deck, she tiptoed to the aft door. When she grabbed the door handle, a spot light turned on her. A masked man slammed the butt of an Uzi into her temple. She sunk unconscious to the ground.
When she came to, her shoulders were terribly aching. Her feet were wet. She was in a dank, moldy smelling room in the belly of the boat. Her clothes were gone. Her wrists were tied together. She was hanging from the ceiling by her wrists. Her feet were inside a bucket of water. A scruffy, big man with two missing tooth was holding one sponge in each of his hands. The sponges had wires that ran to an orange gas generator that was rumbling. ‘Perks of the job,’ smiled the torturer with a dirty smile. The sponges pressed against the bottoms of her ribs below the heart and sent her screaming while seeing a bright white light.
‘Don’t send me back to China. I can’t stand the mindless consumerism. I can’t stand the lack of touch in our society. I can’t stand putting myself back for the good of the family. I’d rather die than go back there. I want a Western man who listens to me and cares about my feelings. I can’t go back there!’
The torturer turned around to studiously pick a surgical blade from the torture kit on the table. Ruby took the opportunity and swung herself with all her might to reach for the man with her legs, pull him in and squeeze the life out of him with her thighs around his throat.
Derek’s black tactical commando boots and black computer generated camouflage patterned fatigues were dangling two hundred feet above the white whipped tips of the waves in the Pacific Ocean. The helicopter rotors droned overhead and pushed a massive airflow down. His ear was pressed against the giant block of a satellite radio.
‘Michael, the Valerian is closing to the 200 mile sovereignty line. I’m ready to board her from the top. Standing by for confirmation.’
Michael was sitting in the operations room, a small cramped room with two LCD TVs, five technicians on laptops, and Johnson skeptically holding the index finger on his face. The left LCD showed the body cam of Derek, the endless ocean. The right LCD showed the radar dot of the Valerian and the coast guard helicopter along with their trajectories. ‘Five minutes to the event line,’ announced a technician.
Derek looked around himself and felt on the ground. The co-pilot looked at Derek questioningly, ‘Has anyone seen my ammo?’ Then, Derek remembered to mute the satellite radio.
Michael shook his head and leaned into the conference speaker at the center of the table.
‘This is Michael actual. Abort the coast guard helicopter. Launch the cruise missile. Order confirmation is Alpha-Bravo-Tango.’
A little speck plunged out of the sky onto the Valerian and turned her into a giant fireball that grew and mushroomed high in the air. Black smoke rose into the sky. Ten seconds later, the ocean was empty. Endless flatness. The eye was trying to get a sense of complete flatness, yet the waves were running into every which direction – a scattershot force of the wind drove them. Only mysterious black smoke hung in the air and dissipated.
A yellow rubber life raft bopped a mile away in the water. Ruby and Hunter were overlooking the spectacle. Ruby was wearing the filthy overall of the torturer that was twice too large for her small body. She looked confident and in her element in the center of havoc. Nothing else gave her peace. Hunter’s eyes looked wired.
‘You owe me one for saving your life,’ said Ruby with the tone of a challenge. ‘Is that zero-day attack still locked away in your brain?’
Hunter nodded obediently at the dominant Ruby.
‘Well, we’ll be on this raft for days before the current drifts us anywhere good. We might as well fuck.’
With that, she zipped open his jeans and plunged her head down on his seven inch piece. He let his head fall back on the inflatable wall and looked at the sky while feeling Ruby’s energetic tongue go to town.