Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing: Garcia-centric, team - gen
Summary: In a dystopian future, hacker Penelope Garcia finds herself being hunted by a corrupt organization. Fearing for her life, she must search for help in the strangest of places.
Morgan followed Emily back into the dining room. With seven people, the small apartment was already overcrowded. Even if they didn't end up going in search of an antidote, they were going to have to find another place to stay.
Emily, to her credit, had recomposed herself well. If he hadn't known, he wouldn't have been overly perturbed by the paleness of her skin, or the darkness of the bags under her eyes. After all, they were all tired, and cranky.
'Do you have a write-blocker?' Emily asked Garcia, who raised her eyebrows. The hacker dug through her laptop bag quickly, producing something that looked like a memory card reader.
'What is it?' Morgan frowned.
'It stops anything from being written to the card,' Garcia told him. 'Unless they've done something hinky with their files, it should hopefully stop the card from doing anything hinky to the computer in return. But like I told you, I'll disconnect it from the network anyway. Hardware can always be bypassed with a few lines of well-placed code.'
'Well then couldn't it just reconnect?'
'Not if I take out the network card.' She frowned, as if the thought had only just come to her. 'In that case, then unless there's some kind of tracking built into the chip, we should be okay.'
'If they could track the chip, they would have done it already,' Kevin provided, helpfully.
Garcia plugged the write-blocker into the appropriate slot, before bringing up a command console with a few strokes of the keyboard. 'I wrote a program to synthesize the data into a readable form,' she said, moving back to let Emily take a look.
Several minutes passed. 'It's not any encryption mechanism I'm familiar with,' Emily finally announced.
'So…what exactly does that mean?'
'Generally, most Corp data is encrypted under the same kind of structure. A rotating cypher – the data is never the same if you're looking at the encrypted message. You can't crack it without both the key, and the program used to encrypt it.'
'Or a back door,' Garcia interjected. 'But even the back door is triple-deadlocked.'
'Right,' Emily agreed, apparently not even bothering to ask how Garcia was so familiar with Corp encryption schemes. 'Really, there's no perfect code. Every time the cryptographers try something new, the ha—the cryptanalysts will break it within a week.'
'What you really want to do is have the cryptanalysts make the codes,' Kevin added. 'Because they know all the tricks. Even then, they're not fool-proof.'
Emily seemed to not have heard him, her eyes glazing over as she read through the screen readout. 'This probably comes from the Department of Security. Maybe Department of Intelligence. They'll have multiple forms of encryption.'
'Maybe it's not even encrypted at all,' Morgan suggested. 'It could be corrupted.'
'I doubt we'd even be able to access it if that were the case,' Reid said.
'Guys.' JJ's voice came from the door. Morgan hadn't even realized she wasn't with them. 'You need to see this.'
She led them back into the living area, where the news was playing at low volume.
'"Administrator of Transport kidnapped by terrorists,"' Morgan said, caught halfway between amusement and annoyance. The fact that they were considered terrorists was laughable, but it was also incredibly dangerous if anyone tried to stop them.
'I guess this is the first time anyone's actually cared this much about transport,' Emily said, grimacing.
'Well they do get very upset when the trains aren't on time,' JJ offered.
'Actually, compared to other industries, the Department of Transport is highly efficient,' Reid added. 'Aside from a few suicides, there are hardly ever any incidents.'
Emily frowned. 'Thanks, I think.'
'The news will be different tomorrow,' Hotch said. He didn't often say much, but when he did, it somehow always sounded like it belonged in their manifesto. If they had one.
Minutes stretched into hours. The main problem was boredom. Without knowing exactly how they were going to move forward, they couldn't do much at all. It was all well and good to fantasise about destroying an evil entity, but it wasn't something that could be done without a way to get him inside.
Morgan had resigned himself to the fact that he was going alone. Neither Garcia, Kevin nor Reid had enough experience, and there was no way he was going to let JJ or Emily come with him, regardless of what they said. If Hotch went with him, then he couldn't guarantee everyone else's safety. He still couldn't, of course, but at least there was a better chance of everyone else making it out alive.
It was a surprise, then, when Garcia came up to him. 'I'm going with you,' she told him matter-of-factly.
'No way,' Morgan shot back, before he'd even properly processed her words. There was no way in hell he was gonna let her fall into the lion's den with him.
'I want to find out how to crack that file, and maybe their systems will tell me how to do it.'
'It's too dangerous.'
'So why are you going then, hotstuff?'
Because I can take care of myself, he almost said, before remembering that Garcia had been taking care of herself for a long time before he had shown up. 'Because they'll stop at nothing to get you to tell them where that chip is.'
'And if we can't figure out how to break it, then we're as good as dead anyway.'
'Can't you copy it? Distribute over the net?'
Garcia hesitated. It didn't take Morgan long to figure out why she was so hesitant. The reason she hadn't distributed the file was the same reason she hadn't cracked it. Simply having the thing was the one thing in her life that she could actually control.
'I'll do you a deal, then. You can come with me, if you put it up. Call it damage control. If we can't crack it, someone else will.'
'Done,' Garcia said, almost immediately. With a small smile, she added, 'But if I can't crack it, I don't think anyone will be able to. I'm the best.'
Morgan believed her.
Another hour passed, and JJ, Kevin and Reid were playing cards at the dining room table. Garcia was working on the file. He wasn't sure where Hotch was.
'We'll need someone to take us in,' Emily told him. They were sitting on the couch, feet resting on the coffee table. Her eyes were starting to glaze over again, and her words were a little slurred.
'It can't be you,' he said, frowning. 'Unless you've been secretly brainwashed, I don't think they'd ever buy it.'
In any case, I think you should stay behind.
'I wasn't going to suggest that.' She gave him a look of irritation. 'I know someone that can help us out.'
'When you say "help us out…'"
'Well we can't exactly just go up to a Corp agent and demand to be arrested. We need someone we trust to take you in.'
'And you have someone that you trust.'
'I have someone that hasn't let me down before.' She didn't exactly sound certain of her words, but then, Morgan knew she was right. No-one would buy it if he "accidentally" let himself get caught. 'I'm going to make a call.'
Between the seven of them, they had a single secure phone, which Emily took to the other side of the room. She didn't seem overly concerned as to whether or not he was listening in.
The first part of the conversation, he missed, distracted by the sound of gunfire from several blocks away. In this neighborhood, not unusual.
'I know you didn't betray me,' she was saying. 'But someone did – I still don't know who.' She gave Morgan a quick glance as she said it, but it didn't seem like an accusing glance. In any case, she was right. Somewhere, someone, was keeping tabs on them.
Leaving her to her phone call, he returned to packing his bag, knowing that half of it would be useless anyway, once they got in. Still, it was always good to have a lifeline, and he knew Garcia felt the same way. She was still, as far as he was aware, running some decryption algorithms on the file and prepping it for distribution.
When he returned to the living area half an hour later, he found Emily on the couch, staring at the ceiling. Her skin was clammy, but she still seemed fairly lucid. 'How're you doing?'
'It comes in waves,' she told him. 'One minute I'll be fine, the next I'm coughing up blood again. When stage two hits, it'll be worse.'
'"Stage two?"' he repeated. 'How many stages are there, exactly?'
'I don't know. Four, I think?' She seemed unfazed. 'You'll have to tie me down by the end. Agents who've been poisoned will either crawl back, begging for forgiveness, or put a bullet in their brains.'
'We'll find the antidote,' Morgan told her emphatically. 'We'll find the antidote, and we'll find Will, and we'll figure out what the hell they're doing.'
'You say "we," but I can hear what you're really thinking.'
'I don't think you should come.'
'There it is.' She gave a sad smile. 'It doesn't matter where I am, Derek. Here, or there…I'm already dead.'
'Nobody's going to die,' he said firmly. 'I am not going to let that happen. We're going to win this, Emily.'
Ignoring him, she handed over a small black leather case. 'I set up a meeting for you – 8 o'clock tomorrow morning. You'll probably recognize the man you're meeting, but you can trust him with your life.'
Morgan frowned, not even bothering to look at the case. It wasn't something he could handle at that point. 'What do you mean, I'll recognize him? Is he an agent?' She was no longer listening, her eyes closed in sleep.
In the dining room, the tension was heavy. It wasn't that anyone was particularly angry at anyone else, but they were all on edge.
'Once we've gone, you should find a new place to stay,' Morgan instructed Hotch, who really didn't need to be told why.
Kevin, however, took it upon himself to ask, 'Why?'
Morgan gave him a look, but it was Garcia who answered. 'Because, Sugarpuff, you do not want to be here if they start torturing us for information and this address just happens to come up.'
'Oh,' was all Kevin said.
That night, when he slept, it was restless.
His body and mind were both exhausted, but he was too wired for it to make any difference. When he did manage to sleep, it was only for a couple of hours.
In the morning, Morgan was woken by the rising sun. He found Garcia in the kitchen, eating cocoa puffs with yoghurt. They didn't have any milk.
Like him, she looked as though she'd barely slept a wink.
Everyone else was already up, in various stages of wakefulness. Kevin had fallen asleep at the table. Reid was reading what looked like a textbook on Quantum Whatever Theory.
At seven thirty, he stood. 'Ready?' he asked Garcia, who gave a forced smile.
'Good luck,' Reid said, his voice quivering just the slightest bit. Everyone else echoed the same sentiments. Kevin stood up and gave them both a hug.
Garcia and Morgan shared a glance. 'Alright, chocolate thunder,' Garcia said. 'Let's go save the world.'