Authors' Note: Reports of our death have been exaggerated. :) We're still writing, and the next chapter is already partly written, so hopefully it'll go up quicker. As always, thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed this fic or added it to their favorites and alerts! Your encouragement keeps us going. :)
The problem with climax was the anticlimax that followed. That was pretty much a given, but anticlimax sucked. We had just made first contact with obviously-alien life and there wasn't ANY John Williams soundtrack going on in the background. It wasn't the worst music, more fighting buildup than moment of triumph. This victory required something written by a multi Oscar winning composer. No, it was just us, our moment of triumph and the guys playing Call of Duty in the next room over.
Sharsky cracked his knuckles with a self-satisfied smirk.
"How long do you think it'll take them to own up to the pwnage?" he asked.
"Depends," I said. "Do you think their little alien heads will explode before or after they shut us down?"
"Before," he answered immediately. "Even if the vids aren't mind-blowing, the hack is."
He suddenly whipped out his phone and started typing furiously. I craned my neck and he didn't hide the screen. The To: field had just one name-Lian.
"Sharing our good news?"
"She's the only one who will really get how awesome we are at this moment," he reasoned. "And it's not like it could have happened without her."
"Yeah," I chortled. "If we still have a job after this, we should send her a fruit basket."
That wiped the smirk off of his face. I had gone into this knowing full well that we might have to Take One For the Team and be fired for cause. There was a chance that we could be taken into the family out of sheer respect, but it was a frigging slim chance. All I wanted was for those smug alien jerkwads to answer our brilliance.
But three minutes in, our brilliance was still unnoticed. As soon as I'd taken a screencap for posterity, I'd refreshed the page a couple of times and there were still no comments. So, I went back to small talk.
"So, what is BikerChick, do you think?" I asked Sharsky.
"Hive mind, totally," he answered, reaching across me to hit the refresh button again. "Talked in the plural, even during the introductions."
I hadn't noticed that, but as far as I knew, he hadn't picked up on the synchronized sexy, so we both had something to contribute to the conversation. "Either she was about to assimilate us or she didn't think we'd live long enough to notice," I agreed.
"Wonder what kind of heat she packs," he leered. "Bazookas? Grenades? Hallucinogenic lipstick?"
"And where's she hiding her arsenal? Those pants were way too tight for anything but a dart gun."
"Somewhere…" He gestured with both hands at pectoral level. "Higher?"
"Not a chance," I sniggered. "I can't picture any of them going into a firefight with something they have to dig out of their Victoria's Secret."
"Oh, I can picture it."
And that was why he was the undateable one.
I hit refresh, and one of us squealed. We were heard! We were heard! I had no idea what they thought, but some aliens (probably!) knew we were out there in the universe! And they would have opinions on that!
Spitfire: Alright, who's the joker?
Survivor: Are those vids for real? Looks like the next crappy summer blockbuster.
BringTheRain: No way - we wouldn't have missed a 'con landing.
BikerChick: Vids aside, who's the Alienator? And BullHacker? Those aren't BeeFF's style.
OneManAlone: You don't want that question answered, sweetie.
Sharsky cussed under his breath.
"No way did he figure it out already," I protested. "He doesn't have the brains. He just called BikerChick 'sweetie.'"
"Refresh it," he insisted, reaching for my mouse. "See what else they have to say!"
I swatted him away and hit the button, wondering if GI Jamal would be kicking in yet another door.
BeeFF: Who. Is. The. Joker? Come on. Confess, guys. This isn't funny. You know we could get shut down.
Camaro76: Alright, alright, I confess. It was a bad idea. Sorry about the false alarm.
NotTheToothFairy: You have BikerChick around for once and you can't think of anything better to do than pull this kind of slag?
So Cam Romero was trying to cover for us. I wondered if he suspected we were the ones who hacked it or if he thought Alienboy had grown a better sense of humor and suddenly the skills of a seasoned white hat. That didn't fly, though. He would know that Sam had no reason to split his personality. We had to be illegal non-aliens on his turf and it was going to be a wild ride from here on out. At least, that was the hope.
BringtheRain: I'm not buying it. Why post as yourself under two different names?
Survivor: We have ways of making you talk.
NurseRatched: Not until I get him back for some tweaking you don't.
OneManAlone: Now that's an interrogation I'd like to see. The guy could turn name, rank and serial number into a frigging art form.
Spitfire: "I am...what I am. I am my own special creation. I'm Martin Guerre...I am the very model of a modern Major-General... Two-four-six- oh-oooooooooooooooone!"
BeeFF: OneManAlone is asking for pointers from NurseRatched on interrogating Camaro76. It must be the apocalypse.
Camaro76: No, the end of the world as we know it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes and aeroplanes.
BringtheRain: We're getting off topic. Who the hell are the jokers?.
Camaro76: I'm telling you its me! Look at the IP address. I'm on campus with the boy.
BrassEagle: Believe me we are looking at the IP address. And a lot more. Is IncidentalSidekick aware that he can delete his browsing history?
Camaro76: I think he sees his browsing history as bragging rights.
BikerChick: I'm starting to understand why you came back from a semester in the far East with PTSD.
Camaro76: I was fine after Egypt.
BikerChick: I was referring to Pennsylvania.
They were already reading the history? What was next, the webcam? My heart lurched in terror and I lunged to my feet, grabbed Sharsky by the collar, and hauled him into our bedroom.
"Let go!" he demanded. "What's wrong with you?"
"They hacked the server without breaking a sweat. It's only a matter of time before they think to look to see who's working the keyboard."
"Like aliens are going to come in CSI gloves and dust for prints..."
"No, no. Use your brain for once." I smacked him on the forehead for emphasis and he let out a feeble sort of "ow." I ignored him and plunged into the technobabble without fear. "The webcam can be hacked. They can just look." I ducked back through the door and, skittering below eye level over to the computer, popped the camera eye off the monitor to throw it in the corner behind the server where anyone spying would only be able to see dust bunnies and stale Doritos. It wasn't even a good enough angle to see our pizza fund. Then I unplugged the power to the computer completely.
Sharsky, peeking around the door jamb, gasped like I'd just punched him in the gut but didn't say anything to the look I gave him.
"So, how do we get on to check for comments without getting spotted by The Man?"
"You mean we don't want to thumb our noses at them?"
"I thought the whole point was to get ourselves in on the Buzz."
"Yeah, but it's got to be on our terms." Or at least, on terms that wouldn't involve getting hauled out of our beds in the middle of the night.
Sharky opened his mouth but then shut it abruptly when the Jaws theme sounded from the other bedroom. His eyes widened and I knew he had the same idea I did when it registered that it was Sam's phone announcing a text from Mikaela. We opened the door a crack and peeked into the room he shared with Leo. Sam was out cold, snoring away with the phone right next to him on the floor. We'd be doing him a favor, really, if we liberated it for a few minutes. Sharky snatched the phone and then tiptoed back to the server room while I dug through Leo's desk for a roll of electrician's tape. Two snips and I had lengths to stick over the camera and microphone. Sharsky wouldn't let me take it to apply our black-ops modifications, but he did reluctantly hold it out for me. For good measure, I also locked the door.
"Okay, now it's safe to talk," I announced when finished, stealing the entire phone from him. I quickly typed in Sam's passcode (0217, so obvious, well now that I knew when his birthday was anyway) and opened up his notifications. I spied 7 missed calls from Mikaela, but I ignored those in favor of reading her text.
Mikaela: Better call me ASAP. wtf is bee up to?
I blinked momentarily confused as to who "bee" was. I bit my lip, debating texting her back.
Sharsky rolled his eyes and grabbed the phone from me, pulling up The Buzz and looking for more comments. There was just one from the mod.
BrassEagle: Radio silence. Now.
It sucked that we weren't going to get any more comments, but at least they were FINALLY taking us seriously.
I knew that radio silence couldn't be maintained for long - not for these guys - and I was, as usual, right. When I refreshed the page a whole two minutes later, there was anything but radio silence.
NurseRatched: [This comment has been deleted by a moderator.]
OneManAlone: [This comment has been deleted by a moderator.]
NotTheToothFairy: [This comment has been deleted by a moderator.]
Damn, we were good. Not only did we get radio-silenced, we got the aliens censored. That had to be worth a Pulitzer. Keys jangled in the door, and Sharsky dropped the phone onto the server desk before we bolted back to our room. I threw the lock, then Sharsky started dragging his bed over to barricade us in. He started hauling monitors and old towers over to weigh it down, but I hauled them back just as quickly. We might need to use them as ballistic weapons or bargaining chips later, since they were damn heavy AND had backups of our files on them. He didn't argue, probably because he was still in stealth mode, and started rooting around for textbooks and sweatshirts to use in the barricade.
I had just wedged last semester's compsci book into the one available space when it happened. I wasn't sure there was language involved-it probably was the Spanish equivalent of four-letter words. For all I knew, he was screaming something Cylonish out there, but it wasn't pretty, whatever he was saying. We both cowered back reflexively and Sharsky wielded a power strip like a wiffle bat.
Even prepared as we were, the furious pounding on the door made us jump.
"GET OUT HERE NOW!" Leo roared.
"NOT BY THE HAIR OF MY CHINNY-CHIN-CHIN!" I shrieked back, completely losing my head.
Sharsky walloped me a good one with the power strip. I was too terrified of the sudden Attila the Hun impersonation that Leo had decided to do to care.
"YOU GONNA COME OUT HERE, YOU PINCHE HIJOS DE…"
"LANGUAGE," Sharsky barked.
"YOU FRIGGING RETARDS BETTER GET OUT HERE BEFORE I CALL SOME PAISANOS TO GO ALL CHOLO ON YOUR AFTS!"
"We do not negotiate with terrorists!" I shouted back, more in control of my faculties now.
The thud that followed would have been a door-crasher if we were dealing with the front door, but with all the crap we'd shoved against the door, it just knocked a few Norton anthologies and an old external hard drive onto the floor.
"AFUERA AHORITA MISMO, CHOLOS! AHORITA MISMO Y TU MAMI TAMBIEN."
"Is that a human language?" Sharsky whispered.
"AHORITA MISMO OR I TORCH THE EFFING SERVER!"
We both froze and looked at each other in horror, "He...he wouldn't," Sharsky said in a shaky voice, "half the hardware belongs to him."
I nodded, eyes wide and suddenly very aware that Leo was being much quieter now. Had he noticed Alienboy was asleep and decided to keep it down? Or had his fit of rage woken Sam up? I carefully pushed a book and a backpack out of my way, climbed onto the bed and put an ear to the door.
I was immediately rewarded with another door-crasher thump that practically knocked me over. "HEY!"
"What part of AFUERA AHORITA MISMO, CHOLOS did you not understand?!" Leo bellowed.
"All of it! I took German!" Sharsky answered.
"Alright, how about this," Leo said. I could tell he was right beside the door now, "You got the Buzz off-lined. And I got blamed for your antics. Happy now?"
"Off-lined?" I squawked. "What do you mean off-lined?"
"I mean BrassEagle is this close to turning the jokers over to the NSA and it ain't." Thud. "Gonna." Thud. "Be." Three thuds in a row for emphasis. "ME!"
"Why not?" Sharsky answered. "You crashed the party first!"
"Yeah, and practically took a bullet for it," he said. "OUTSIDE NOW!"
So that was what all that gobbledegook meant. But while we could stand on principle and shut him out, we would eventually have to start peeing in bottles if this standoff went on too long and I didn't think I could deal. It was better to show him we were practically on the same side and then start negotiating.
"Give us a minute," I requested in a defeated tone.
We could have de-barricaded in 30 seconds if we wanted to, but we took four minutes to de-barricade and do the world's weirdest game of charades to decide our next course of action. The end result was that I, being the cooler head, would have to be the spokesman. I also had slightly less of a tendency to whine like a girl under assault. Sharsky still brandished the power strip in case we had to fight back. It was the closest thing he had to nunchuks on short notice.
We emerged slowly, keeping alert for any sudden movements, but still weren't prepared for Leo to grab the power strip out of Sharsky's hand. He whacked both of us over the head and then tossed the strip behind the servers.
"Hey," I protested, forgetting that we were supposed to be making nice, "I needed that."
Leo glared and gave me another whack, bare-handed. "SIT."
Sharsky obeyed immediately by dropping to the floor and giving Leo a very submissive look. I held onto my dignity and took Leo's desk chair. Impossibly, Sam had slept through all that and was sawing logs in the corner.
"You two have managed to piss off pretty much everybody, and they're blaming me - everybody except Robowarrior who suspects you two."
"Wait - what?!" I exclaimed. "He's on the blog, too?"
"And he knows who we are?" Sharsky squeaked.
"Yeah he's on the blog, and he's been tailing Alienboy all year, which means you cholos are on his radar, too. So here's how it's going down. You two are going to 'fess up so I stop getting blamed..."
"To who?" Sharsky interrupted.
"To whom," I reflexively corrected.
"Remember the guy who busted down the door?"
I've never actually forgotten to breathe before, but I did at that moment. Sharsky crossed himself.
"You're going to answer every question he asks. TRUTHFULLY answer," he clarified.
"So long as he doesn't get personal," I said more calmly than I felt.
Leo brandished one finger, and then flipped up a second. "Next, Alienboy and I are already going to be in trouble for not reporting you when you first got courtside seats to the blog, but you are going for full disclosure. You're going to cooperate completely. You are going to - step by step - tell them how you did it. How you got the passwords and how you created your user names and how you got through the security. THIRD." Only Leo could make three fingers and legalese sound like something that should be censored. "You are going to explain every single step you took in finding those videos."
"We weren't asleep on Thanksgiving break," Sharsky volunteered.
That wasn't exactly "every single step," but we could go into that later.
"Done," I agreed. "Anything else?"
He lowered his hand, but he was still all up in my grille like some kind of drill sergeant on too much Monster. "And you are going to tell me why you didn't mention this evidence to me or Sam."
"Because you kept it from us!" I finally spat back, he'd completely asked for it-caving to the man and keeping secrets from his conspiracy cohorts.
He gave me a look I'd never seen on his face. It reminded me of the look my Dad gave me when I asked how soon I could play the Atari again after I accidently set the garage on fire.
"People have died for stuff like this," he said very seriously, sounding quite a lot like Sam and nothing like himself. "This is the kind of thing that gets people sent back to Dover with flags on their caskets. This is not the kind of crap you keep under wraps. Not from me, not from anybody. You could have gotten people killed just because you wanted to look like a smart-ass and that is as far from not cool as it gets."
I actually felt chagrined now and he hadn't used a word of Spanglish, techspeak or profanity to do that. It was weird as hell, but worse, it wiped out my self-righteousness and shot me up with good old-fashioned mortified guilt.
Leo rubbed his forehead like he was dealing with the mother of all caffeine-withdrawal headaches. "Log on. Confess. Get them off my back before they send in the big guns."
"And then what? The door gets kicked in again?" Sharsky demanded.
"No need. They know the hack was from my server, so they've probably got our entire dorm under guard now. It's just a matter of time."
I threw my hands in the air, but Sharsky hurried to the window to peek out. Sam just snored on.
"Not by aliens," Leo clarified in a growl. "They're not going to be stupid enough to send them in again anytime soon. You cholos aren't going to be seeing another one of them for a long time - if ever."
My heart sunk to my shoes. We knew our inaugural post could have been our last, but still…
Leo read my expression. "There's going to be hell to pay, but not until after Sam and the big guy are both awake."
"The 'big guy' being Sam's blood-brother? Is he their leader?"
His only answer was to glare at me. "'Fess up! Now!"
Sharsky looked near tears and I was sure I wasn't too far off, either. But I fired up the server and sat down behind the keyboard. Leo furiously jotted down our usernames and demanded our passwords, and we meekly gave them to him. Then I logged in and wrote what very well could be our farewell to the aliens. "Hi. Our real names are Fassbinder and Sharsky, and we're roommates of Sam and Leo. We first hacked the blog at the beginning of the school year. Just to be clear, NO ONE from the blog helped us or even ratted it out to us. We found the blog on our own and hacked it on our own." I glanced up at Sharsky, just daring him to mention Lian, but he didn't even blink at my little white lie that would leave at least one person in the know on the outside. "We found the vids of the alien you missed by a perfect storm of good luck and awesome skills honed by a lifetime of conspiracy…"
Leo whacked me upside the head. (I rubbed the spot and exclaimed "Ow!" but he talked over me.) "You do not brag up your skills to the aliens! Ever!"
"But…" Sharsky began but the bossman held his hand up.
"You're supposed to be apologizing here, not just getting them off my back."
"You said confession not apology. They're different." I insisted.
"Try again," he growled.
I took a deep breath and started typing some more. "We found the vids of the alien you missed by scouring the internet after the first alien landed on the Luxor. We're really, really, REALLY sorry we freaked you out."
Sharsky leaned over the keyboard and added, "Please don't let GI Jamal kill us."
"You're effing sniveling now," Leo declared, slightly mollified.
"We're apologizing," I pointed out while Sharsky took over the keyboard again. "Or if you're going to HAVE to kill us, let BikerChick or Spitfire be our executioners, please?"
"No sexual harassment," Leo flatly ordered, pounding the backspace key.
"Said the kettle to the pot," I grumbled.
"Shut up and get back to your sniveling," he retorted.
I finished with the only other thought running around in my head. "We throw ourselves on your mercy. Please have mercy."
"Think we should attach our résumés?" Sharsky wondered, earning him a slap upside the head from Leo, too.
"They're gonna comb your hard-drive for every last bit of data they can mine from it. Résumés should be the last thing you should worry about. Now post."
I clicked on the big yellow button that shotgunned our apology to the aliens.
"Good," Leo grumbled. "Now get some sleep. While you still can."
In the background, Sam let rip a massive snore. Apparently he sided with the bossman.