Becca stirred and Jeff left his work. Laying the laptop on the bench, he brushed tender kisses along her forehead and cheek and then let his shield cover her body. His heart flew as he felt his little boy’s rhythms pick up on his own. Jeff flooded his shield with soothing warmth and Becca fell back into a deep sleep.
Caressing his hand over her abdomen, Jeff smiled. The swelling seemed to be going down.
“Hey, little guy,” he whispered as their little boy’s rhythms spun and began to lilt. He blinked away tears of thankfulness mixed with exhaustion.
“Please be okay,” he choked. “We love you so much and I swear I’ll keep you safe and be there for you. Nothing like my old man. I swear to you.”
He kept Becca casted for a while before returning to his work. She needed to sleep and he needed to prove his worth to Portwood and to Iodex. He needed to convince his boss to hire him even if his GPA slipped because he needed a real, full-time job with a real full-time paycheck.
Jeff concentrated on the screen before him. He felt the electrical energy pulse through him. He could see the data moving all around him. It was energy and for some reason he’d always understood the energy inside electronic machines almost as well as he understood his own shield. It made sense to him.
Rolling his eyes he chuckled quietly at the hacker’s self-assigned screen name. But as he typed it into Google, just for kicks, something struck him. Sly4361 had been bragging rather pompously on numerous websites about his skills and that always irked Jeff. Being angry at the guy made his predilection even stronger, which he needed now.
“4361.” That number seemed familiar, but it took him a minute to recall where he’d seen it before. S4361 he remembered.
Working quickly, he accessed his email on his own laptop at home. His brow furrowed as he opened a logged email from Venton back before school had begun. It was an electronic copy of his schedule they’d sent out for review.
Student Name: Jeffrey Aaron Strenton
Class Rank: Senior
Predilect Order: Ioses - Lieutenant Commander of Order
Student Number: S4361
Telling himself it was a coincidence, an ominous sense of dread worked over him as he shut down the information on his own laptop and went back to the task at hand. Student numbers only ever appeared on schedules and report cards. He hardly remembered his own as he was never asked to give it for any reason. He didn’t even know Becca’s. He tried to pacify himself with that as he continued.
He summoned and casted the laptop. Working quickly, he logged in with his Senate security account, via his Iodex badge number, and kept an eye on the traffic moving back and forth over the firewalls of the Senate Banking Website. Criminal hackers generally liked to access multiple accounts with vast amounts of money in them.
Skimming a little off of the top of numerous accounts could make a hacker quite wealthy. If they were smart, they could keep doing it without the account owners getting wise to the missing funds for some time.
He started with the accounts that had been compromised in the hacker’s latest attempts. The Banking Board of Governors had immediately reset the security on those but it was a decent place to start. He skipped over several of Rainer and Emily’s accounts. He wasn’t trying to spy on people and he didn’t want to know how much money his friends had. He preferred to work anonymously. The people’s accounts he was watching were really nothing more than numbers on a screen.
Jeff archived and then reset all of the security logs on the accounts he was interested in. He began watching the feeds along with the firewalls. Popping open one of the Dr. Peppers Logan had left, he chill casted it and downed before he inhaled another protein bar.
“Jeff?” Becca gasped. He nearly threw the laptop as he rushed back to her side.
“I’m right here,” he soothed. A timid smile formed on her beautiful face as she reached for his hand. Lacing his fingers in hers, he leaned and kissed her sweetly. “You’re supposed to be asleep, Mrs. Strenton.”
Her blinks were heavy as she managed a slight nod. “I had a weird dream.”
Jeff lifted the plastic bottle of water Adeline had left and held it for Becca to sip through the straw. “I bet the meds are making you dream, sweetheart.”
She inhaled the water and Jeff refilled the bottle, supplying her with more. Thank you.” She sounded like he’d just given her diamonds.
“How do you feel, baby?” Summoning, he set his cast over her once again.
“Better when you do that,” she admitted. She relaxed as she felt him permeate the very air she breathed in. “I think we should name the baby Aaron,” she announced. “After you and after your grandfather.”
“We don’t have to decide today,” Jeff soothed. Thinking about naming his son after his grandfather had a rock like enclosure cinching around his throat. It would mean a great deal to him and his mother but he wanted Becca to choose.
“I like Aaron. It’s perfect.”
“Then Aaron it is.” He let his hand caress over her stomach again. Aaron sensed Jeff’s shield and once again his energy lilted to a higher frequency. Tears welled in Becca’s eyes.
“He can feel you.” She used most of her fading energy to squeeze his hand.
A deep yawn overtook her. Jeff kissed her cheek and released his cast.
“Go to sleep, baby. Adeline wants you to rest and it’s really helping.” He was shocked over how her color had returned. She seemed to be healing before his eyes.
Nodding Becca eased to her right side and tried to get comfortable.
“I wish I had my pillow. Or you,” she fussed.
Tucking her back in, a sense of contentment worked through him. It didn’t matter what her father thought. She was happy with him. He made her feel safe, and loved, and that was all that would ever matter to him. “Mom’s gonna go by the house on her way back from work. I’ll get her to bring your pillow.”
“I love your mom,” she yawned as her eyes began to close.
A hesitant knock sounded on the door. Logan poked his head in.“I brought you some subs from Big Mickey’s and more Dr. Pepper,” he whispered.
“Thanks. Come on in.” Jeff settled back with his laptop.
Logan set the sandwiches from Iodex’s favorite sub shop on the table and added several additional cans of Dr. Pepper. “How’s it going?”
“Slow but that’s kind of the deal with stuff like this.”
“She okay?” He tilted his head Becca’s direction.
“Yeah. She’s woken up a few times. She seems loads better though.”
“I can tell,” Logan seemed to know that Jeff needed the reassurance. “I’m gonna go home for a little while but Rainer and I will be back after I help dad with one of the Gators he can’t get to work. Ad’s working all day so she’ll be by in a little while I’m sure.”
“Are my in-laws still out there?” Jeff huffed.
Chuckling, Logan nodded. “I’m pretty sure they think you’ll eventually give in and let them see her. Ad keeps telling them she’s just sleeping.”
“They’ll be waiting a long while.”
“All right now, simmer down there, Strenton. Her mom’s really upset,” Logan urged. Jeff refused the guilt that he felt prod his internal shield. “Call me if you get anything or if you need me,” Logan called as he exited the room.
Jeff unwrapped one of the sandwiches and opened the laptop again. The meatball slathered with cheese almost came forcefully back out of his mouth as he took in one of the security logs that had numerous entries suddenly. It seemed to have withstood a brute force attack. There were over fifty thousand hits of random passwords on one account.
“Shit,” he hissed as he swallowed down the food and went back over the firewalls and logs. His mind raced as he tried to determine how to take care of his wife, and little baby, and catch this idiot, and score himself a job all at the same time.
Deciding that he needed to go on the offensive instead of playing a passive defense, Jeff concentrated. He quickly coded an enhanced trojan. He casted the laptop again forcing his own energy into the detection trojan device he’d just created then attached it to the accounts under attack. If Becca needed him, he would be there. He could let the technology work for him, while he worked for her. The enhanced tracer would send back data from the hacker’s computer. If he’d juiced it just right, it would supply him with location information on the IP addresses in use.
Glancing back at Becca, he prayed that this would work. She was sleeping peacefully once more. Frustration set in as everything seemed to halt. Clenching his jaw, Jeff casted yet again and moved his search just outside of the firewalls.
Stunned disbelief rocked through him as he watched the password attempts continue but never make it to the firewall to be rejected. Expanding further Jeff began to see page request after page request be redirected to a faulty script page. No one else was signed into the Senate servers that could have been deflecting the attempts.
Studying the redirect page, Jeff gasped. Someone had taken it upon themselves to stop the bank hack. A white hat hacker! Jeff shook his head. Can’t I just be the hero for today?
If he was going to use his trojan device and actually find the guy doing this instead of just keeping him from the sites, he was actually going to have to help the hacker to the firewall.
Defiant determination set in his musculature. Jeff prayed Becca wouldn’t need him for the next few minutes as he set about shutting down the helper’s servers. He flooded them with a denial of service attack casting each packet of information expanding it and sending it in rapid transmissions. He let his fingers fly. He needed to win, today of all days.
Suddenly the account he was watching was accessed and Jeff halted his attack on the white hat. His heart pounded as he casted and activated the honing beacon on the trojan he’d set. Swallowing hard, Jeff wiped the sweat from his hands on his jeans as he watched the relays begin. It worked! Every cell in his body rejoiced as he watched the trace route light up on his screen. He lifted his cell phone to his ear calling Logan.
“Yeah I just got something. Can you and Rainer get back out here, like now?”
“We’re still here. Be up there in a sec,” Logan assured him.
Indonesia, Brazil, Myanmar. Jeff stared at the screen praying that his tracer would lead him wherever the hacker might be.
Costa Rica, then California. Jeff’s heart hammered. He was afraid to blink.
Rainer and Logan flew through the door without knocking. They stood behind Jeff watching the laptop screen silently as Becca slept on.
Wyoming, New Jersey. Everyone leaned in as the tracer beacon seemed to slow.
Virginia, Arlington flashed on the screen. “What the...?” Logan gasped as they continued to watch. Jeff felt his heart sink as he began to realize that Sly4361 might not have been a coincidence. The signal honed in just as he’d programmed it to do. His cast held. The laptop glowed with the signatures of one of his casts.
Virginia, Falls Church, was next as Logan’s mouth hung open.
“No way.” Rainer shook his head.
Virginia, Falls Church, Idylwood pulsed on the screen.
“No fucking way,” Jeff hissed. Everyone stood in stunned silence as they watched the beacon halt and pulse on 79 Highland Estates Way. It took the enhanced mapping program on the computer a half a second to show a satellite image of the Sapman’s multimillion dollar mansion on the golf course.
“Man, why is it showing us that?” Logan looked almost as appalled as Jeff felt. He shook his head in abject disbelief and continued to stare at the laptop, willing it to say something else, anything else.
“That’s where the hacker is… right now,” he managed to choke.
“I was afraid that’s what you were going to say.” Logan rubbed his forehead as Rainer began to pace. “Jeff, her parents are sitting out there. You understand that we now have to go arrest the Sap-asses,” he ground out.
“I’m… sorry,” Jeff tried to locate the appropriate reaction.
Letting his training kick in, Rainer jerked his phone from his pocket. “Portwood, Jeff’s got them and you’re not gonna believe this. We’re heading out. I’ll give you the address in the car,” he chanted as Jeff watched Rainer and Logan sprint from Becca’s hospital room.
He ran his hands through his hair repeatedly as he marched in front of Becca’s hospital bed. A million thoughts vied for his attention. It serves them right. Greg and Brent aren’t smart enough to have done this. What the hell were they thinking? Does daddy not make enough money? He couldn’t believe what he’d found.
Switching back to the firewalls, Jeff continued to watch their attempts. “Unbelievable,” he hissed as he glanced back at Becca trying to formulate what to say to her after her brothers were apprehended. Fifteen minutes later, his cell phone vibrated in his pocket.
“We’re in. Ramier’s got the computer and he’s extremely impressed by the way,” Portwood gushed. “But, man, the Sap-asses aren’t here. Did they get wind we were coming?”
“Wait. What?” Jeff stared at the laptop again.
“You have the computers,” he quizzed. “Yeah. John’s unhooking them. They’re evidence,” Portwood reminded him.
“Sir, there’s still activity on the servers. Someone hacked their computer. It’s not them. Someone else is logged in remotely. It’s… not Greg and Brent,” the reality fell from Jeff’s mouth.
Casting again, he recasted his trojan device and pushed it harder forcing it to find where the Sapman’s computer was being controlled from. “I’ve got it,” he gasped.
“Okay, where is this prick? ‘Cause I just broke into a freaking Governor’s house, and it isn’t one that likes me,” Portwood fumed.
“Sir, he’s at the Starbucks right across the street from the Senate,” Jeff vowed unable to believe what he was seeing.
“We’re on our way,” Portwood chanted as the line went dead.
“Why would this guy be spoofing the Sap-asses?” Logan demanded of Rainer as he flew back to the Senate.
“Got me.” Rainer threw the Porsche into Park and leapt from the car amidst the flashing blue lights and blaring sirens. A kid that looked younger than Jeff sprinted out the front door. He was clinging to a laptop.
“That’s him,” Portwood demanded. But the kid was fast he threw the laptop on the pavement and dodged in and out of tourists making his escape in the sea of people. Tuttle and Ericcson raced into the coffee shop as Rainer saved the laptop from an oncoming bus.
Laughing derisively, Tuttle emerged a second later.
“Wonder how long it’ll take him to realize he might’ve left something behind.” Tuttle held up a forgotten iPhone.
“Haydenshire!” Portwood commanded.
“Sir?” Logan answered immediately.
“Take the phone and the Lawson there and find this kid. Bring him to Georgetown. I’m bringing in the Sapman boys as well.”
“You got it,” Logan agreed as he and Rainer took the phone and flew up to the Iodex office.
It took Rainer approximately two minutes to have a name and address to go along with the cell phone number. Logan called Garrett and Sorenson at the police precinct to meet them there.
An hour later, they escorted a scowling, belligerent teenager into Georgetown Hospital. Portwood dragged Greg and Brent Sapman through the front doors in cuffs. “Ramier’s up there with Jeff. Adeline got us a conference room,” he commanded Logan and Rainer.
They followed Portwood to the conference room. As the Sapman boys were escorted in front of their parents the Governor was visibly stunned.
“Landon, what is the meaning of this? You looking to lose your job?” Governor Sapman spat.
“Let’s talk in here, Governor,” Portwood never lost his cool and never looked frightened. It was quite impressive, Logan noted. It was also something he’d learned from Dan Vindico.
Logan and Garrett tried to hide their smirks as the scowling Sapman brothers were shoved into chairs, in cuffs, by none other than the Haydenshire boys.