Bullseye, First Try (XOR1)

Bullseye, First Try (XOR1)

Was Avanta in the wrong place, at the wrong time, kidnapped and coerced? Or was she a terrorist, as some describe her? Reports are surfacing from the abyss. Distinctive discusses Avanta’s “kidnapping”.






Transcript

L: Did you see the Washington Post this morning?

Yeah, I did.

L: Is it true?

I don’t know what to believe. Did you see the New York Times headline? Go there.

L: Oh. Okay, wow. So, like, the complete opposite.

180 degrees.

L: Because Exclusivor hacked the Times website?

You got it.

L: The Washington Post says that Avanta was not willingly working with Sindictive. It says she was coerced. It says Sindictive kidnapped her.

I want that to be true. I don’t want to believe Avanta is a terrorist.

L: How did she end up wreaking so much havoc? Wasn’t she with your team?

We worked together at the DoE, actually. I was her boss. But Avanta got mixed up in all of this by accident. An accident named Sam Fishburne.

L: Oh, right. Fishburne. What happened to Avanta?

I know some of it.

L: Tell me.

Okay. The short version is that Fishburne and Lita were inside the Drive, Bye warehouse in San Jose.

L: Drive, Bye, auto-driving car company?

Right, we were scouting the place. Trying to figure out why Exclusivor had broken in the month before. What was important about this warehouse?

Sam and Lita did the assault. First thing they did when they got in to the warehouse, they found a computer in a corner and Lita plugged in a Rubber Ducky. A moment later, Stoney’s laptop gets a reverse shell. A few minutes after that, Stoney’s moved laterally, he’s in everything, he has video feeds for all the security cameras.

But, there’s like dozens of cameras all over this massive warehouse and it’s difficult to navigate them, so it takes a few minutes to locate Lita and Sam.

I remember that at one point Avanta is standing next to me. We’re shoulder surfing Stoney. And Avanta is super nervous. I mean, it’s like watching a tense scene in a movie. Sam and Lita could get busted. And we’re basically helpless to do anything. Avanta grabbed my hand.

L: Oh, really?

Yeah. Really.

L: What was that like?

I was pleased.

L: What about Fishburne? He’d be mad if he saw that, right?

Undoubtedly. I mean, that’s his girlfriend. And, he hated me.

Anyway there is this set of offices, and Lita and Fishburne were peering through windows. Suddenly, Fishburne sees something, and he grabs a trash can, and hoists it over his head. He keeps it there for a long time, like five seconds. Then throws it at the window.

L: What the fuck?

That’s exactly what we all said.

He bashes this window and they reach through it and open the door from the other side.

We’re all yelling at them. What did you do? What is going on? It turns out, their phones weren’t working, they couldn’t hear us. Later Lita told me that Sam actually said, “Any objections if I bash this window in?” Since he didn’t hear any, he did it.

L: Did anyone hear it?

Everyone heard it. Astronauts in the International Space Station heard it. “Any objections if I make a fuckload of noise?” Fishburne. God, what a work of art.

L: So, they got arrested?

So, Stoney is watching all the cameras. To me it’s just this jumble of video feeds, I don’t know which one is showing what. I mean, one monitor could be from the far corner of the warehouse, or it could be from the hallway of offices. Stoney somehow knows and he’s like, “security is heading your way!” Sam and Lita appear from that office, then go into a different office just as the guards arrive. The place is suddenly crawling with people, looking at the broken window, looking in the office, going every which way. But they don’t go in the room where Lita and Sam are. They don’t know they’re in there.

L: Wait, is Avanta in there? Is this how she gets kidnapped?

No, Avanta’s with Stoney and me in the hotel room.

L: Okay, but how did Lita and Fishburne get in, in the first place?

Prosthetic Belly.

L: What?

Lita has a fake belly that makes you look pregnant. It’s from an old Halloween costume.

L: How does being pregnant help?

The goal is to get in the door, right? Places like this, they have too many doors to have a person at each one. So they have a door that only opens if you have a badge. But, you don’t have a badge, you’re not a guest, so how do you get in? Lots of hackers and pen-testers just try to time it so when someone else is walking in, and they follow them through the door. But, companies are training people, so tailgating like that doesn’t always work.

However, looking like you are eight months pregnant and about to pop always works.

L: Ahh…. People always hold the door for a pregnant woman.

Yup, and no one bothers making sure she scans her badge. Which is good, cause, Lita didn’t have one.

Once she was in, Lita went around and found the door where Fishburne was waiting, and boom, they’re both in.

L: Jesus, that’s brilliant.

It is brilliant. Lita credits this pen-tester called Jek who does it all the time, too. 100% success.

So -

L: Sorry, one more question. Avanta is in the hotel with you, like two blocks from this. How does she end up getting involved?

I’m getting to that.

L: Okay. Go ahead.

Where was I?

L: Swarming guards

Right. So, Sam and Lita go into this office, and I hear Lita say, “Oh, no! There’s no door handle!” They couldn’t open the door from the inside. Basically, they were locked in. So, I take off. I take the stairs down to the hotel lobby while dialing into the War Room and putting in my AirPods. I run the two blocks from the hotel to this warehouse. I want to get them out of that office before they are caught. I’m thinking fast, how do I get in? I have a belly, but I don’t look pregnant. That’s not going to work. If I had more time, I could find a tarp and toss it over the razor wire fence and climb over. But I didn’t have more time.

I was looking, looking, looking. Come on!! Come on!!

Then I saw it!

L: What did you see?

A rift.

L: A rift!

There was a telephone pole along the fence line.

Because it would be easy for anyone to climb the pole and jump the fence, there was all kinds of extra security to prevent that: A-200s, Sprengs, teller spikes, Hawkins lids. But, at the bottom, all the security had been defeated by a nearly invisible rift in the wire, along the pole. It was a busy street zoned multi-use, so the fence couldn’t be electrified.

L: Someone had cut it.

Someone had cut it.

L: Exclusivor?

Almost for sure. And, that was the problem. It was an Exclusivor-sized hole. I’m way bigger. I couldn’t possibly make it through.

So Avanta saw it, too, and said, “I’ll go through first.”

L: Avanta was with you?

I was so focused on finding a way through the fence, I didn’t realize she’d followed me from the hotel.

L: She’d followed you from the hotel!

Yup.

L: Oh, no. She followed you! And, she’s gonna get kidnapped!

Avanta shot through the rift on all fours, stood up, and pulled back the fence so I could get my big ass through.

We’re past the fence, but I can’t remember the warehouse layout, I need Stoney to walk me through it. So I said to the War Room, “hey man, I’d love some good news about security cameras right now.”

Stoney didn’t reply. I figured I’m in a dead spot and I’m like… what to do, what do I do?

Avanta says, “There!” And points to a dumpster. Inside, it’s full of old hard drives. She picks up a heavy one and chucks it at this window like 20 feet up the wall. Bullseye, first try. Shatters the window.

L: Why does she do that?

I know, I was like, “What are you doing?!” She said, “quick, over here.” She grabs my hand and pulls me into the shadows near a door.

There wasn’t much room, so we pushed in close together and it was quite wonderful.

L: Oh, holding hands AND snuggling.

It’s still one of my happy places.

L: I’m starting to worry that she’s playing you.

A lot of people have said that.

I guess we were no longer in a dead spot. Suddenly, Stoney spoke in my earbuds and I jumped! He said, “I’m watching the cameras and I’m tracking your phone’s GPS. Two guys are heading your way.”

A minute later, the door burst open and two security guards came charging out. They ran right by. Didn’t even notice us. We waited a beat and slid through the door as it closed.

L: You got in.

We got in.

It took a moment for our eyes to adjust. We started walking. Within ten minutes, we were near the hallway of offices. Avanta had Stoney’s sense of direction.

The hallway was empty. I figured security must have searched the area, didn’t find anyone, and were checking the rest of the warehouse. Probably checking security footage, too. So we had to hurry.

But, just then, when I was literally about to open on the door holding Fishburne and Lita, we heard someone. We slid inside the next room.

The room was completely empty except for the table that stood in the far corner. Avanta grabbed my hand. She and led me to the table in the corner. She hopped up on it, turned and sat. She pulled me to her, grabbed my hand and put it on her breast, and kissed me.

L: Holy shit.

Spinning, my head was. Blood was rushing places and my mind went fifteen different directions.

When the guards opened the door and came in, Avanta arched her back, grabbed my ass, moving rhythmically, and moaned.

L: God damn. I need to open a window.

Without stopping her movements, she said to the guards, “Do you mind?” Jesus, even I thought she was about to finish. The guards were like, “Not again.”

L: Hahahaha, they rent that room by the hour!

I guess so. So, the guards watched for a moment, and I was starting to wonder if they were going to pop some popcorn and stay for an entire show, but then I heard them leave.

L: So, then you went to find Lita and Sam?

I admit, I might have acted like I thought the guards were still there for a little longer.

We waited for a few minutes and I was looking around for a stack of textbooks I could carry when Avanta said, “They’re gone.” She was looking out the window.

We went into the hall, and opened the door for Lita and Sam. They were really happy to see us.

L: Did Avanta tell Sam about you two?

Good God, no. But I noticed that Avanta couldn’t quite meet Sam’s eyes. Sam was oblivious. He was carrying a lock box like it was the One Ring of Mordor. He was beaming. Beaming and oblivious.

(She’s playing you again? Maybe Repeat it under the narration for the next paragraph, like Count to Fuck)

Then, a security guard yells, “Stop!” And we started running, and didn’t look back.

Across the open warehouse, down this aisle stacked to the ceiling with auto-parts, around that pillar, back track because we’re blocked by a pile of boxes, then out a door, to the parking lot, and (!) to the rift in the fence we got through in the first place. Avanta led us straight to it like she had a homing beacon. I could have never found it myself.

L: She was playing you.

We all got through the fence as Avanta held it. Then she said, “Oh no, I lost my phone!” She turned, ran back through the still-open door, back into the warehouse.

L: And…

And we didn’t see her again.

L: She didn’t come back out?

Nope.

L: You didn’t go back for her?

We wanted to. But, we thought, no big deal. She was stupid to go back for a phone, and she got busted. We’ll wait a few hours, go bail her out and get out of town. We were all using false identities. Happens all the time.

We packed up at the hotel and waited for a call. Nothing. Next day, we went to every nearby precinct to ask around.

L: Nothing?

Nothing.

L: What happened to her?

At that point, we had no idea.