"Xander, report." Gibbons demanded.
"Well, I went to the apartment and found out some pretty interesting stuff." Xander reached into the pocket of his leather pants and fished out a bulging bunch of folded paper. Feeding it into the scanner of his laptop, he looked up at his commander. "This stuff definitely proves that this girl is involved in something other than just computer parts. She's also got a direct connection to Nikolai."
"She? I thought you said it was a teenage boy," the hard eyes of Gibbons glared up at him in a manner suggesting that X had made a stupid mistake.
"Naw, apparently, he's a she. Her name's Laila, Laila...Halliday, that's it. I'm gonna run a background check on her later."
"Good." Replied Gibbons, who was now looking over the newly scanned papers. They were some things he snitched from the apartment before he was caught. Gibbons turned away for a moment to type something in on another computer. "Apparently, these figures match some of those that were lost in recent hackings. Is there anything else you have?" Xander gave him a quick description of what the visit was like; how Laila acted, what the apartment looked like, things like that. "Alright then, X, that's all good and dandy, but it isn't the best you can do. I want you to go in deeper, much deeper than this. You've visited the site, which is great, but I need you to get so close that you can meet Nikolai. But don't do it all in one fell swoop, alright? Do some things with Laila first, I don't even care if you pretend to like her. Just do what you have to do to get closer." The men traded a nod and signed off.
Xander immediately began a search for her on the government database that was installed in his computer. He went up to the search box and typed 'Halliday, Laila.' There was a little magnifying glass circling over a folder in the typical searching animation, and finally it disappeared to reveal...nothing. NO DATA FOUND. The screen taunted him with these words. "Okay..." he said, and began to try another name. But he stopped short when he realized that he didn't have a last name for her 'Chet' alias, so that was bound to fail as well. Various attempts to respell her name also came up dead-ended.
Finally X decided to screw the database and use his old pal, Google. If any search engine knew what was going on in the underground, Google did. He typed in her name. Nothing but crap. He typed in her name with the word 'computer parts' included. One link, but it was just for a computer part store somewhere in Kentucky. Backspacing over the last two words, he rewrote 'hacker' in their place. Six sites came up. The first one he clicked was a site called , and Xander laughed as he searched their sections on 'How to build a bomb' and their weapons storehouse. It was all completely accurate. Finally, he stopped messing around and clicked on their folder labeled 'Hackers'. There was a list of names, some of which were highlighted as links.
About three fourths of the way down the lineup, he saw LAILA HALLIDAY in big, bold letters. Luckily, the name was highlighted, and he clicked on it. The link took him to another site called "They sure think up bright and sunny names for these things" Xander said to himself sarcastically, marveling at the nerve and anger these kids had.
The text on the page popped up, and Xander could tell at once that it was a multi-user site, where other people besides the creator could dedicate pages to their favourite troublemakers. The first thing on the page, above the text, was a picture of Laila. It looked like a license picture, because in it, you could see only her shoulders, neck, and head. Her smile was small but wry, and one of her eyebrows was raised. Next to it was another picture that looked just like it only this one was drawn by someone, and next to her face they had scrawled "Laila Halliday" with a loving little heart-shaped anarchy sign beneath. As Xander read into the text, he could see that more than half of it was insane, fan-boy raving. The word 'hot' was used more than once in most sentences, and words like AWESOME and AMAZING were tailed by unearthly amounts of exclamation points. But the third paragraph from the bottom was helpful. Xander read it aloud.
"Laila is like, 19 or something now, totally young for her skill, and I heard she's already hacked over 20 databases. As if that wasn't kewl enough, she also deals computer parts, and she can get the best stuff. The thing that makes her totally WICKED though is the big snitch she pulled last year that was like, so incredibly SWEET!!!!!!!!! She hacked into the M and T Bank and not only stole half their moola but hacked up all the machines that make checks and made it so that they basically cussed out all the people who ordered them. Instead of saying like, 'write amount here', they say 'give me all your fucking money, bitch!'. LOL!!!!!!!!!" Even Xander himself had to laugh at this. He scanned through the rest of the text, seeing nothing of real importance. He backtracked a few pages to the list of hackers in hopes of finding something on Nikolai. If Laila was indeed doing her share of the hacking, then he really needed to find out what Niko was up to, especially because it seemed he had a lot of power over her. And if Laila herself was dangerous, then Xander could only imagine what her master would be like.
The list of hackers was growing smaller, and Xander was ready to give up close to the end. But when he was nearly to the bottom, there was a much smaller list of five or six names with the title 'Greatest of All' over them. And sure enough, there was Nikolai's name, paired with the last name of Haleai. "Nikolai Haleai..." repeated Xander, his big brown eyes growing wide in anticipation for the information he was about to find out. But the second he clicked the link, the screen went black. "Shit!" he muttered, smacking the computer upside the monitor. His fingers were just about at the reboot button when he noticed text flowing out across the screen. "What the...?" Sitting back down, he read over the words.
Hello Xander. How are you? He jumped forward onto the keys and typed back;
Who are you?
You know who I am. We haven't met, but obviously you know me.
Nikolai? Nikolai Haleai?
Yes. Nice to meet you.
I'd rather meet you face to face, if you'd like to know.
I already knew, and in a way you already have. But the point is that I have been tracking everything you've just done on the internet.
Oh really, what have I ? You checked out quite a few things before finally getting down to business. You read that page written by some crazy fan of Laila's, and you were just about to check out some things about me. Well, you'll be glad to know I've already hacked your computer. You can't do that anymore, your computer will now forbid you to open anything about me.
You are really a control freak, aren't you?
Yes, Xander, I am quite a control freak, but we all are, on the inside. Speaking of which, what exactly are you doing sneaking around my Laila?
Your Laila?! Excuse you, she has her own life. Stop being such a possessive bastard.
I can't, Xander, because we are so very close. And if you order me about one more time, let alone swear at me, then I will have to infect your computer with one of my NLS's.
NLS. Stands for Nikolai's Little Servant. My viruses. I don't only have things designed for company funds, I do much more than that. Anyway, Xander, I didn't contact you just to have a little chat, I wanted to make you a deal. Well, it's more like an ultimatum.
I'm not gonna like this, am I?
It's doubtful. Here's the deal; you get your parts and get away, or...
Well, I was waiting for you to say 'Of course I'll go away" but I know you're up to something much more and wouldn't want anything to get in your way. So I'll tell you the 'or' part. Stay away or I'll kill Yelena.
I know it was a sucky way to end the chapter but it sounded cliffhanger-esque so I figured I'd stick it in there. Besides, I'm getting tired and want to stop writing. Next time, you can find out how Niko knows about Yelena and what Xander's going to do to stop it. Niko might also bring in some hacker friends, who are a force to deal with. If you would like to be one of those hacker friends and have a brief moment in the spotlight, then review me. I know how much people like reading stuff about themselves that they haven't written, so this is your chance. I'm not giving you guys very long, now that I'm in the mood to write. I've already got two people I'd like to write about (Arc, you're already one of them so if your reading this then don't do anything, although a regular review would be nice.) The other is my friend LRNEC who has requested (more like harped on me for weeks) to put him in the story. Yep.