It was late, or early, depending on how you thought about it. Fassbinder was trying learning by osmosis with his Norton anthology and I was about to sign off—I had to be up early for my eleven o'clock—when I got mail.
"Sah-weeeeeeeeeeet," I crowed.
I ignored Binder. He was never much good until he'd been awake for a few and had a Red Bull. My last email of the night was from this hot Asian girl in Texas. She'd traded me a year of hosting for some of her mad skills, but I hadn't talked to her in weeks. Best not to mess with an artist at work.
"Binder," I hissed.
He groaned and rolled his head to the other side so he was now drooling on Coleridge.
"Binder," I repeated.
He wasn't responding, so I decided to sneak a peek. What I found in the e-mail DEFINITELY warranted sharing. I picked up the nearest of his X-files novels and smacked him heartily upside the head with it.
"OW!" he protested in a bewildered tone. "Whadja do that for?"
"Shut up. We've got first contact from Kluged."
"Sweet," he said, instantly alert if not awake. "What she say?"
"She thinks she's cracked it. Get me a Bull and we'll try it out."
"It," of course, was the code we'd been working on for a coupla months. Ever since the first Youtube videos started popping up with giant robots getting Godzilla on Mission City's butt, we'd been looking for evidence that it wasn't just some teenage wannabe who knew his way around stop-motion animation.
There was a ton of stuff. Theories about secret government projects, alien contacts that predated Roswell and even a website for fangirls who thought the badass one was hot. But there were no government fingerprints all over it. Usually, there was some kind of data trail that sounded like a CIA front.
We never expected to find a government filter on a blog. Friends-only we'd run into. Password-protected we hacked with ease. When you had to have a 32-character cryp key to read about someone's trip to Arkansas, that was different.
That was where Lian came in. She was the best cryppie I'd known and she was all about reciprocity. I scratch your Linux, you scratch mine, that sort of thing.
"What's she say?"
"Disappointed or not, if this works, I'm naming my firstborn after her," Fassbinder announced.
He popped the top of a Red Bull and handed it over. I chugged it—I needed liquid strength this late at night—and then opened the email.
"Okay, got the site cranked up," Fassbinder announced. "Username and password?"
It was case-sensitive and was probably made up after someone fell asleep on top of their keyboard, but it just might work.
I spun my desk chair around and squinted at his laptop as if that was going to make it go quicker.
"Still loading," Binder muttered. "Either the government's got the server from hell or it's really graphics-heavy…"
"Or maybe they're tracking us," I said; Leo wasn't here, so I had to play devil's advocate.
Binder nodded distractedly and waved his hand at the screen like he was mind-tricking someone. "Cruncha cruncha cruncha…and we're in. Whoa…"
This? The US government had a 32-character cryp for…this?
"The Daily Buzz?" Binder said, staring in consternation at the screen. "Que lame-o."
"You're telling me," I commented. "Graphics-heavy is right. It's, like, nothing but pictures of Podunk, USA and cars. What's so frigging classified about that?"
"'Empty Nest,'" he read. "Post by Camaro76. 'All alone without the guys this weekend. the boy's got his own thing going, but roadtrip this weekend! When do I get to have some fun? I've been cooped up for months, laying low…' What is this guy, the Unabomber?"
"Listening to, Beach Boys, 'Little Deuce Coupe.'" I rolled my eyes. "Mama's boy Unabomber."
"Or old fart," Fassbinder suggested. "Let's see who his friends are. Maybe he's, like, the President's boyfriend."
"I hope Obama's got better taste than that," I commented. "This guy sounds like a total douchebag."
"BeeFF… Ooh, she's nice. Post four days ago. 'Hey, Camaro, are you serious? Diana Ross? I'm bringing over some Linkin Park tonight, whether you like it or not.' NurseRatched talks about nothing but his health problems. NotTheToothFairy…" Binder snorted. "The guy is such a poser. Thinks he's all badass. Probably sitting in an armchair and watching the Dukes of Hazzard somewhere in Georgia."
I had the site pulled up on my own computer and was scrolling through a conversation in responses between Optimust and Camaro76. Optimust sounded like the real old fart there—he talked like some documentary voiceover.
"Anything suspicious yet?" Binder called.
"No," I groaned. "What a waste of space."
"Leo will flip," Fassbinder muttered. "We've been chasing this white rabbit all this time and all we've got to show for it is BeeFF's profile pic and some photoshopped pic of a semi truck on top of the Colliseum."
"Well, you win some, you lose some," I commiserated. "Wonder if the government knows how dumb this is."
Fassbinder shrugged. "Probably not." He glanced at the clock; it was four-thirty. "IHOP?"
It was where we went whenever Leo skipped town. He hated the place, but they had free wi-fi and it wasn't like I was going to bed before class anyway. I had to find something else to crack to make up for The Daily Buzz.