Date Night


hana_icon.gif mallory_icon.gif

Scene Title Date Night
Synopsis Two single women celebrate "date night" with a training exercise in electronic sabotage.
Date November 28, 2008

Somewhere Eminently Virtual

Friday night is date night. Except for Mallory, anyway. And a bunch of other teenagers around the globe, but the glossy magazines and other media would have you believe it's date night. Mallory's at home; it's Friday night. Her cousins are yelling at each other in rambunctious fun-filled ways, so she's tucked away in the farthest corner - the laundry room - where she's typing away at her laptop and generally being sour.

The sour mood might be lightened by the little window that pops up in a corner of Mallory's screen. Or maybe not. Pop-ups are not usually regarded with anything but disgust. This one, however, is atypical for that sort. Plain, rather than garishly colored; no more than a title bar and two text fields, display and input. A simplistic chat window.

Hana: Hello, Mallory.

Pop-ups, of course, can be closed quite readily. An additional, implied message, in the event that Mallory's recent silence was deliberate.

Mallory looks at the simple box and moves her cursor to click on a text field for input. Her lips press together as she thinks; a decision needs to be made. Now.

Malware: Hi. I've been meaning to talk to you.

Hana: I hoped you had been. I know I said I wasn't going to bother you, but I was asked to find out if you were all right.

Malware: ?
Malware: I'm alright. Mostly. You heard what happened at the school?

Hana: Yes.

Malware: Can you show me how to find who did it?

The pause before Wireless replies is brief, but present.

Hana: I don't know if your ability works the same as mine. If it does, then I can — but what would you do if you knew?

Malware: I don't know. Something. Probably something bad. They could have hurt someone I care about.

As opposed to all the people they hurt she didn't care about.

Hana: And if you go charging after them, you will survive five minutes only for the sake of their amusement.

Malware: Define 'charging after them'. I'm not going to walk up, wave hello, and aim a gun at anyone. No guns. Nothing they can see me for. All this electronic data flying around, there has to be something that'll hurt.

Hana: I'm sure we could come up with something.

Despite being no more than text on a screen, the choice of words suggests the other technopath already has something in mind.

Hana: I'll need to see exactly what you're capable of, and what I can teach you.

Malware: Good. I'm interested. What first?

Hana: I need to know your limits. This may be best discussed and done in person. If you're willing, I can provide a secure location.

Another hesitation as Mallory thinks this over.

Malware: Alright.

Upon Mallory's assent, an address appears on the screen.

Hana: When do you want to meet?

Malware: Well, it's date night, so I'm… absolutely free right now.

Hana: Date night. It seems to be a completely foreign concept to the older technopath. Then I will see you when you get there.

Malware: How will know each other?

Hana: Just knock on the door. I'll be the only other person there.

Malware: Alright. Well, this is kind of nerve-wracking.

Unidentified Ferrymen Safehouse, Lower East Side

The address, it turns out, is a townhouse in a decent neighborhood of Lower East Side. There's a few people on the street at this time of night, individuals and small groups of two and three, all of them respectable-looking; the street is well-lit and well-maintained, as are the residences on either side of it. This particular townhouse has interior illumination visible in two spots, one on the ground floor and one on the second; the rest of its windows are dark.

"That's kind of creepy," Mallory mumbles, touching the mp3 player in her pocket and silencing it. She goes down the walkway and knocks on the door, bouncing on her heels and briefly debating just bolting. This would be an excellent trap. She doesn't think it is, but a little paranoia is healthy. Right?

There's a pause before the door is opened, sufficient for someone to have to come from another room of the house. The woman on the other side has two inches over Mallory — a pronounced two inches, given that she stands straight — but at passing glance there's a surprising resemblance between the two. Only in passing, however; in the details, there's no similarity.

Hana wears a plain, pine-green blouse and black jeans; for once, she seems to have answered the door without any weapons in hand. "Mallory," she greets, opening the door wider to allow the teen passage. "Coming in?" Implying that the girl can turn right around and walk away if she's decided not to risk this meeting.

Mallory looks up at Hana, blinking twice. "Yeah," she says, moving to step inside the house. "Huh. I was kind of expecting an eight hundred pound Armenian man, but okay."

Closing the door behind the student, Hana raises an eyebrow at Mallory. "You'll have to settle for me," she replies. "Help yourself to anything in the kitchen, if you want."

"No, not being an eight hundred pound Armenian man is okay," Mallory drawls in her usual deadpan sort of way. She edges into the kitchen, opening the fridge up and peering inside. "You don't actually live here."

"I don't 'actually live' anywhere," Hana confirms, as she pauses at the bottom of the stairs. The kitchen is stocked as befits a safehouse — which means, not sparingly. If it's light on luxuries, well, so is almost everywhere in the city, these days. "I haven't for some time. If you want those details, however, you'll have to step into the underground you've already shied away from once." There's no pressure in the statement; it's perfectly matter of fact. That information belongs to an exclusive group; if you're not in the group, you won't be burdened with it.

Mallory closes the fridge, shaking her head. "I don't want to know," she tells Hana bluntly. "I'm safer not knowing things like that." She pauses, arching an eyebrow. "I'm safer not knowing things you said you'd teach me, but at least that's more safe than trying to figure everything out myself." Walking to the stairs, she stuffs her hands into her jacket pockets. "Let's go."

Hana inclines her head, leading her way up the stairs and into the room that's been set aside for this project. There's a computer, powered-down, on a desk along one wall; the chair in front of it is a comfortable one, and so are the other chair and the couch also occupying the room. "You want to hurt the people who blew up the school; that'll let you do it," Hana says, nodding towards the desktop. Eventually, anyway. "The first piece of information is on the actual computer. It'll point you to the second, which is not. I'll watch how you go about retrieving both."

The first clue is buried, of course, but not too deeply. It's meant to be easy. The second datum, hosted on a distant server and behind moderate security, is not.

Mallory looks to the desktop; she nods, crossing over to take a seat in front of it. And maybe because she's showing off or because she doesn't often get to do this or maybe just because she's seventeen, she powers the computer on by just brushing her fingers against the hard drive case. "What sort of information?" she asks, scowling at her reflection in the black screen the instant before it boots up.

"It relates to phone calls," is Hana's cryptic reply. Satellite phone calls, to be specific; each piece being half the name of a Russian company dealing with such, and the first also stored with the IP address of where to find the second.

Mallory begins the usual way: like any computer user, checking files. And then she opens it up to how a hacker moves, searching through information, getting a feel for the system. And when that's done, she closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and places her hand against the side of the hard drive's case. In she goes, through the routes she already knows, down the halls she's already traveled. But this time, when she passes the doors, she pauses to listen at what's behind them. To know what's there. To read it. She looks for places the information can get out and spread, winnowing her way through. By the time she gets the first half of the name, there's some blood trickling out of her left nostril.

"You're bleeding," Hana observes from her seat to the side, voice quiet but pitched to carry. To be heard. The words are not a condemnation, but have more the quality of a question — is that the practical limit?

Her presence in the computer is likely palpable, something sensed at the edge of one's vision, the feeling of a watcher. Hana isn't trying to hide it; after all, she told Mallory she'd be watching.

Hana's voice barely registers to Mallory; she squeezes her eyes more tightly shut and mumbles, "S'fine." There's a wavering in her search as she speaks. Talking hurts her focus. She continues, widening her net, then thinking better of it and compacting her focus into one tight ball. Then she sends a spike up and out, far as she can, unfurling a line and seeing what previously-treaded path it will snag on.

With Hana being the hider of treasures in this scavenger hunt, there's precious little in the way of a path — not with the way her variation of technopathy operates. But any defense has its weak points, and the surface firewall of the distant computer is no exception. Those flaws are apparent in the digital 'fabric', and if Mallory looks long enough, there's evidence one has been both unraveled and repaired. Perhaps Hana took advantage of it at some point; perhaps some piece of malware did. There's no way to tell without close inspection and the experience to interpret that study.

Mallory fishes around in the information, spying the tiny repair job, trying to snag it with a tendril. And she does. Time has no meaning for her when she's like this; she's been under for a while. She's still a beginner, after all. Opening her eyes, she says, "Bogdanov." The second half of the name. And then she winces and snuffles; there's some more blood in her nose. She digs around in a pocket for a kleenex and an aspirin. She came prepared.

Wireless is nothing if not patient — at least when it suits her to be. She's all manner of impatient at other times. Tonight, she utilizes that ingrained experience in waiting, to Mallory's eyes not having so much as moved since she sat down to watch the younger technopath worked. "Very good." The statement is not patronizing; that would be beneath Hana's dignity. "Do you want to continue on this now?"

Mallory works up some spit and tucks the aspirin into her mouth to dry-swallow it; she snuffles into the kleenex and nods. "Yeah. Yes." More dabbing with the kleenex. "Gimme five minutes." So her headache will start to ease, maybe.

Hana nods at the request for a break. "You have a name," she remarks. "Whenever you're ready — the next step is to find out more about it." And here, it's not Hana hiding pieces in known locations; the information is out there, somewhere, for Mallory to find. Admittedly, Wireless knows where it is; she's already looked for it once.

Mallory closes her eyes again, but she doesn't touch the computer this time. She keeps the kleenex to her nose for a few more moments before tucking it away again. There's a small smear of blood on her upper lip. One hand extends, seeking the computer again and finding it. Down she goes, armed with a name and determination. Simon could have been hurt or killed. Killed. And he's all she has left, and somebody has to pay for making her afraid again. Slow but steady.

A satellite communications company, Mallory's searching will find. Russian, hence the name. A bit on the old side, but still operating. Still active.

What do you do with the name of a phone company?

Mallory hates asking for help. Hates it with all her little seventeen-year-old heart. But she's tired, and she pulls out enough to mumble, "Phone. Phone company. Where next?"

Since the girl's stubborn enough to keep going, Hana lets her. A digital message, rather than verbal, is sent to the girl. An account. The account number follows. If we can trace this back to the money they use to pay the phone bills… Hit them where it hurts.

Mallory processes the numbers, nods slightly in the outside world, and narrows her search down to the account. A name. And now she's following it to the money connection.

It's a corporation server. It's a server for a company that specializes in secure communications. Which is to say, it's a mare's nest of security mechanisms. Firewalls. Antivirus. Encryption. More firewalls. It's not the Fort Knox of the digital world — but it's definitely a tough nut.

Hana's been in and out of there a couple of times already, but in the thicket of security measures, her trail's a lot harder to spot.

Blood starts trickling out of Mallory's nose again; she makes a noise, a quiet one, and eases her hand and presence back from the computer to hold her head. Too much. Too complicated.

Wireless recognizes surrender when she sees it, and just to make sure the girl doesn't do anything really foolish, Hana directs the computer to shut down. It won't stop her, as Mallory's display earlier made clear — but it'll slow her down if she tries to go back in. The woman moves to rise from her seat, thinking better a moment later. Mallory's power works by touch; physical contact between her and Mallory is probably not a good idea. "It's a very good start." Again, the statement is simple fact.

Mallory nods a little. "I can't… I can't do any more tonight. I need to rest. I need some rest and then I'll do it again. I can do it, just a little… a little rest first." She's exhausted.

"You can stay here if you want," Hana says. This time, she does rise from her chair. "There's a bedroom across the hall. Or I can take you home." Mallory could also sleep on the couch if she didn't want to move any farther. Whatever works.

"Mmnmmn. Couch works," Mallory says. It's close, it's moderately comfortable. She stands up and edges her way over to it, settling a hand on the arm as if to make sure it's solid before folding herself down onto it and closing her eyes. Out like a light.

Hana watches Mallory sprawl out on the couch without comment. She waits until the girl is asleep — not long at all — and then disappears into the other room to filch the bedspread, which is brought back. Wouldn't do to have the student catch cold. Then Wireless turns off the room's light, though she herself stands at the window for a while. Looking outwards? Perhaps. Or perhaps turned inward, walking the intangible halls of a virtual world on errands of her own.

A message to Teo, sent in the later hours of evening:
Mallory is alive and well. Taking the bombing in stride, all told; reasonably angry over it, but not, I think, going to scar.

November 28th: Echolocation

Previously in this storyline…
Still Burning

Next in this storyline…
Lesson to Vanguard

November 28th: The Wrong Fed
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