game

I’m Not Asking

In Novel Excerpts / Novella by Elizabeth Richardson

Chapter excerpt from the novel SportHacked, A Game of Emotional Halloween, a work of Science Fiction that follows a woman as her life is being taken over by computer hacking. Much like the current day scandal around “Blacktivist,” the protagonist has joined a group that is a con game sponsored by trolls.

Rory Scout is a counselor and has joined an on-line therapeutic game.

Four days after starting the game she will lose her career, money, reputation, and her family. There is no way out of the game. Losing means death or imprisonment. In order to win the game she will have to learn to live underground and ultimately embrace the one thing she has always tried to run away from–Her father’s violence.

James Diamond is a corporate hacker. He justifies what he does by telling himself that everyone lies, and he just does it better. James is the CEO of a surveillance business that contracts with law enforcement and politicians to do their dirty work. As a government contractor he is protected by the Patriot Act without having to conform to any sticky ethical obligations of the Constitution.

He is watching us.

He sees what kind of porn we watch, what we tell our friends on social media, and how much money is in our bank accounts. He sees our affairs, our posturing, and our beliefs that we treasure. And then he observes how we break those beliefs when money or pleasure is involved. He loves to watch us lie.

Diamond says that he is not a bigot himself, just a realist. Cloaking his crimes behind our cultures hate means he will never get caught. He targets immigrants, people of color, impoverished and uneducated whites, and sexual minorities. He uses these same deadly techniques on activists, or any one who may get in his way.

Rory Scout is queer and has gotten in his way. He has invited her to play the game.

I’m Not Asking

I hardly think about love anymore. My daughter. I still miss my daughter.

Just a few months ago I was a therapist. I used to be a nice person before the hacking. That’s really the point. I used to be just like you before the hacking.
After six months of daily sabotage, my life taken from me, my money stolen, my family gone, my reputation ruined, sleeping in my truck, and any chance to start over smashed…I am now ready to do something extreme. There is no way out of this but violence.
I’m not asking for your approval.
Crime became my only option after I realized how painfully easy it was to hack on-line employment applications and that I was never going to be allowed to get another job.
Now I’m a criminal. And I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Petty theft has been how I have supported myself so far. I guess I come by outlaw thinking pretty naturally considering my family background.
Why did I pick the financial corporation E-Trust for my first target of revenge?
Because E-Trust and Mr. R. Butler had made the mistake of exposing themselves as part of the dude-bro group that were having a good time sport-hacking me. Butler wasn’t in charge, but he was the best target I had for now.
Just six months ago I would have asked for Butler’s help. Like a lamb asking a lion for help. I would have asked for him to treat me fairly. I would have asked for justice. Made a complaint. I would have asked to listen to his lying explanations and excuses that mined my own self-doubt and fear.
I’m not asking anymore.

Planning the crime is the most important part besides the execution.
It’s the car used during the crime that gets most people arrested because of the license plates.
With state vans sitting beside roadways clicking thousands of pictures of traffic per minute and cameras at traffic intersections I decided to not take any chances.
My first big crime was surprisingly easy. Parking a good distance away from the mall parking lot and walking to the shopping center with a portable drill under my coat. My breath got away from me sometimes. Was I really going to blow something up?
Yeah-I really was.
Quickly shopping for some vehicles about the same year and model as mine, scrunching down, feeling my hands vibrate slightly as the drill quickly unscrewed the license plate. Sliding the metal under my shirt in the back. I felt its coldness against my bare skin. Twenty seconds or less. They wouldn’t be reported stolen or noticed at least for an hour or probably longer and by then I’d be long gone.
Walking back to where I parked, I put the freshly stolen plate on my truck and looked at my work for a moment before moving my truck closer to E-Trust.
Part of my preparation was my appearance. I was dressed in baggy jeans, big coat, a ball cap, dark sunglass, and a fake beard. Yes beard. Yes, of course I’m female. My name is Rory, but I try not to use my real name now.
Mostly men committed crimes. It’s what they would expect. If cops were looking for a man they sure wouldn’t be looking for me.
Walking up to the Commercial Buildings where E-Trust was housed, I noted the electricity in the back and the cameras.
Camera placement was important. Mostly the good cameras were on the inside of buildings and pointed at the staff and money. That’s what they cared about. Cameras on the outside of buildings were mostly just for show. Still, I wasn’t planning on getting caught so I looked at everything.
It was early in the morning and I sat on a concrete wall waiting for Butler to arrive, drinking a cup of coffee with cream. I wish I had gotten a bagel. My stomach was growling.
Butler drove into the parking lot with his Jaguar XF just before 8 a.m. He got out and went into the office building.
There was only a front door at E-Trust. No back door. If anyone came out it would be from the front.
After a few minutes a delivery truck for a coffee shop drove up and parked in front of the Jaguar. I took my shot and quickly slid under the Jag and put the pipe bomb with a phone attached as a detonation device right by his gas tank.
The truck blocked even any shitty camera shot, and I was walking away in less than a minute.
Yeah…I knew that insurance might replace the car.
Besides planning the crime, and making sure you don’t get caught, the next most important thing is the goal. A clear goal that will stun your audience.
It wasn’t about Butler losing money. No big deal. He would just make more money.
What I wanted was for him to know that I could have killed him and maybe next time I would. Maybe that way he’d think about it before he pulled that shit on anyone else again.
What I wanted was for Butler to wake up in fear and go to bed thinking he might not even have the privilege of waking up in fear again.

My mother wanted to believe she was a good mother. No, she needed to believe it against all of the evidence to the contrary. She needed to believe my father was a good man so that she could stay with him. She called me a liar so her story would fit that she was a good mother and my father couldn’t have incested me.
What does this have to do with blowing up a jaguar?
Everything.
Most people don’t want to change their lives. They want to change the facts to fit their lies.
Asking for help and telling the truth about the hacking had only made people walk away from me.
People would help me as long as I tailored stories to fit their beliefs. There was no time for me to be angry about the human condition. It was time for me to accept reality.

After placing the bomb under Butler’s car, I needed to get as far away from the scene of the crime as quickly as possible.
On my way to Canyon, Texas, to camp for the night I stopped in Lubbock to find a mark that would let me use their phone to make the call that would explode Butler’s Jag.
My alibi was in place with a gas purchase with a credit card that was about forty-five miles south of Lubbock. I had also changed out of my man work clothes and put on a dress and a wedding band. Married women are not nearly as suspect as single ones.
Again, I wasn’t mad about the injustice anymore. I was exploiting it.
I had placed the pipe bomb close enough to the gas tank that all parts of it should disintegrate but you never can be too careful.
By 2008, West Texas had become a bastion for conservative religious extremists.
Standing at a gas pump in my flower print dress and sandals, I feigned a look of helpless disturbance and waited.
A minivan drove up with the family sticker on the back. You know the one that shows all of the little ones and the parents. I knew that whoever got out of that minivan was my mark from that sticker.
There were predictably several children in the van. I waited for the mother to step out. Type A personality. Perfect hair, perfect dress, polished pumps. She knew as sure as God made little green apples what was right and what was wrong. She let her husband be on top because he was the man and the leader of her family unit, but secretly she knew he was only on top because she let him. Blonde. A hard blonde, not a soft one.
I wasn’t judging her. I was just fishing.
“Hi, sweetie, I was wondering if I could use your cell phone for a minute. I’m such a ditz. Walked right out of the house without my purse. Just need to call my husband and tell him I owe the store keep for gas.”
The woman looked at me up and down. I passed her bias check as someone that she would help. “Oh sure. I’ve done that before.” She pulled her phone out of her purse and looked back at her kids. “Now kids,” she knocked on the van window to get her kids attention, “When you help other people, other people will be there for you when you need them. That’s what good people do.”
The woman was turning this into a teachable moment for her children.
I felt the warmth of her hand touching mine when she handed me her phone and I smiled at her.
With that phone in my hand and looking into that woman’s eyes after lying to her, I felt a seismic shift in perspective. How many times have I suffered at the hands of overzealous religious extremists?
The trick was not to fight them with facts or science. The trick was to go along with what they believed in.
I dialed the number to the pipe bomb in Houston.
The phone rang three times and then it went dead. Imagining the explosion and Butler’s face as he jumped out of his office chair and him smashing buttons on his phone for fire, police, I crushed a laugh that was gurgling up in my throat.
Pressing my back into the driver’s side door of my truck, and crossing my ankles, I started talking to dead air. “Oh…hi honey. Could you come by the store on Riggs? I forgot my durn purse at the house. A really nice lady is letting me use her phone to call you. Love you bye.”
Quickly hanging up the phone and handing it back to her smiling. “Dag gum it, he didn’t pick up, but I’m sure he’ll git the message. You have been so sweet to me, I can’t thank you enough. Praise the Lord.”
“Well darlin’,” and then she opened up her purse and her tight little flower wallet and gave me a $20. “God has been good to me. You pass this on to someone else when you can.”
I gushed and snatched the twenty out of her hand a little too eagerly. All toothy smile. “You have to let me get this back to you.”
“No, this is God’s work and will today.” She held onto her purse with both hands in front of her looking pious. Her hands knew she was being taken but her head hadn’t quite gotten the message yet.
I nodded solemnly, tamping down my euphoria. “Yes, I think you’re right. Thank you sister.”

I guess it’s the human condition. Tragedy. It was easy to pick marks. All you had to do was pick people who were obviously lying to themselves. None of this would have happened to me if I hadn’t been lying to myself.

Believing your own lies means you will believe the lies of other people.
Means you have a high chance of winding up like my mother.

With a no good husband, an incested daughter, and murdered.

About the Author

Elizabeth Richardson

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