An internet cafe was a little predictable, but Tobi thought it would suffice for tonight's activities. He needed to be identified as a local, but anonymous. Accessible, yet just out of reach – that unmemorable face that slips out just as you slip in.
Ah yes – tonight, he was a troll.
He had already decided that he would never use Cypher here – too risky, even with his IP masking utility. No, it would be strictly throw-away ids, though few enough of those had been compromised that he could get away with some pretty established handles.
Courtesy dictated that before you used the free wifi, you bought a cup of coffee. If you were using one of the provided pay as you go terminals, you could forgo the obligatory purchase, but otherwise, there was just a way things were done. Tobi had always thought courtesy was for other people, though, and simply plopped down in one of the center tables and opened up his laptop bag, ready to begin a night of stirring up trouble on the forums.
Her ‘Lil Bird seemed to find its way downtown on its own and she some how wound up in the Qwerty CafÃƒÂ©. The Siamese profanity slid off her tongue without effort and without caring who was around to hear it. How the hell had she wound up her? She thought she wanted to get away from technology for a bit. Oh well, she was here.
Sliding her lifetime member ship card at the guy behind the counter she demanded,
“Coffee, now, no sugar… decafe would be a –very- bad thing.”
Snapping up her card and coffee she flopped, with absolutely no grace, in front of a computer pulled another chair up under her feet and dejectedly clicked at the screen waiting for something… -anything- to grab her attention.
It was this latter that Tobi was currently engaging in, finding that he had little interest in the more high minded aspects of the art form. At the moment, he was browsing YouTube for an appropriate video clip, having grown tired of lolcat pictures and photochops. A good troll always did his research, after all.
Soon enough, he came across what he was looking for – simple, juvenile, and basically amusing. It was just a cat looking at itself in the mirror and acting silly, pouncing and spazzing out, but it was funny and Tobi starting giggling. Then came the kicker – the cat walked away a little bit, then came running straight at the mirror in a full frontal attack.
After that inevitable collision, the cat tried to get up, failed, then managed to slink away, looking dazed. Grinning, he copied the link, and then seemed to realize where he was. Looking around with his best ‘I’m so sheepish, gawsh’ expression, he gave a little wave to the cafÃƒÂ© at large, noticing that at least one new person had arrived since he last looked around and giving her an especial nod.
As though to demonstrate its hilarity, he snickered again, still keeping up his harmless faÃƒÂ§ade.
Not seeing any no smoking signs, she deiced to risk it and lit up a clove. The habit was reassuring, relaxing even and taking a nice long drag kept her from going over to the dark side and snapping at the kid. Offering him something of a mock salute with her coffee cup.
“Football to the groin or dancing gnomes?”
Actually, the latter was of interest to her. She’d caught about three of the day shift hanging around late, after dark late, and laughing manically at dancing gnomes. Pak had failed to get the joke and was a bit concerned by that.
Mmm. Did they serve pie here?
Not having any coffee cup with which to return the friendly gesture, he could only respond with a shrug. The next moment, though, he was sorely wishing that he had been looking at something a little more ‘cool’. While his brain was sending him ‘you don’t have a chance in hell’ signals, he would rather not look like a total dork in front of a hot Asian chick.
“Er.” So much for that. He turned the laptop to face her and set the video to full screen. “Just another goofy cat thing – probably overplayed but I hadn’t seen it before.” With that, he hit play yet again, this time managing only a quiet “ooohhh” at the pivotal moment. “The gnome thing going around is pretty funny too – can’t say I’m a big fan of shots to the groin, though.” He hunched a little and winced dramatically in demonstration of his typical reaction to such things.
Lovely, show and tell. At least that meant it was relatively socially acceptable. There has been times she’s wandered in her and gotten one too many speculative looks from guys who were more than a little familiar with … less than reputable sites featuring Asian women.
Watching the video was almost entertaining. Hell, it eared a short chuckle and a half smile. A bit predictable, but no one ever said the Internet bred intelligent people.
Having the good grace to exhale –way- from You Tube boy she nodded.
“I’ve seen worse. But I just didn’t get the gnome thing, not sure why. A few of the guys I work with found it down right hysterical.”
Maybe they’d just been punchy. Who knew. She wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. His quip about shots to the groin, however, earned him a full smile.
“Ten points for evolving past that part of the humor ladder. Some guys never do.”
“Ten points, woot! But do I lose points for cracking up at icanhascheeseburger?”
Fickle fads be darned, those cats were freakin hilarious.
“And yeah, I guess the gnomes thing is only funny if you play WoW…”
Mayday, mayday! Tobi went over that again, realized his mistake, and quickly added “Not that you don’t! Play. Because girls do. Play video games. All the time.” A pause. “Women, I mean.”
Wow, way to cram your foot so far down your throat…and here things had been going so well. Tobi thought he knew the drill from here – coffee in lap, or worse, on his keyboard, then the name calling followed by a very nice view of the back of her head. His expression was that of a pup who’d been caught peeing on the carpet, though there was a ray of hope – after all, she hadn’t been too stuck up to come over and look at the video. Sure, she seemed ‘cool’, but not ‘mean girls’ cool. And so, he took one last stab at charming, giving a self deprecating laugh and shaking his head. “Man, my sister’d smack me over the head if she heard that.”
Screw diamonds, semantics were a girls best friend Pak thought as she flashed the red head one of her best teasing smiles.
Ah it was a WoW thing. The game had never tickled her fancy. The technology behind it yes, that was interesting but the game itself not so much. Of course it also explained why some of her day shift thought it was hysterical. She’d caught more than one of them muttering about missing a raid when they couldn’t get out on time. What ever kept them off the streets though.
The nasty case of foot in mouth disease You Tube Boy had caught almost made her laugh, almost. As it was she swallowed her coffee a bit hard and had to clear her throat. Dang that could hurt.
“Yes we do, on occasion. I applaud you for your open minded approach to gamming.”
The words were a bit curt but softened by her expression, which clearly indicated she wasn’t being serious.
Pak had actually never been much for gamming but then some how she’d gotten a hold of a Wii and it had been down hill from there, or up hill it depended on how you looked at it. The point was it was highly entertaining to shoot plungers at rabbit like creatures for no apparent reason.
“Very wise woman your sister. Its remarkable how a good poke in the ribs helps remind guys how to play it cool.”
“Hey, not just gaming – they can also, like, get –jobs-, and –vote-, and mow the lawn…”
Snickering a little, he held up his hands in a ‘don’t hurt me’ gesture, only half kidding. Maybe this chick really was as cool as she seemed but Tobi knew he wasn’t the sharpest at reading the fairer sex and it never hurt to take precautions.
Brightening at the compliment to his sister, he nodded in agreement.
“Yeah Tavi’s great for that – been kicking my ass since the womb!” Then he added, in case she didn’t get it, “We’re twins. Tobi and Tavi, ain’t that cute?” He made a positively revolted face at that last comment to show he was kidding. He could have said his sister’s name was Octavia but it would be only fair mention that his own name was actually Tobar. Not exactly cool. Of course, Tobi wasn’t much better, sounded like something you’d name a dog, but at least you could joke about it.
Suddenly distracted, he pointed to the counter. “Say, I think I spot cakes and stuff up there,” turning back to the girl “You want something or are you good? I’m suddenly in the mood for a brownie.”
She spat the expletive at him in her native tongue.
“I’ve got a job, enjoy the occasional game, and vote but there is no way that I will at any point during my existence on this earth no matter how long it might be, the added mentally –ever- be mowing –any one’s- lawn. Its simply not up for negotiation.”
Unless they invented some really cool software and a robot. Ok she might mow a lawn then, of course first she’d have to get a lawn and Pak was more than a little bit of a city creature.
“A two for one sale?”
She mused allowed. Multiples were always rather fascinating and she had no idea why. Their names, however, made her cringe.
“That had to hurt. I’m willing to bet the two of you wound up kicking a few other people’s asses along the way.”
Actually, she was in the mood for something else, but Tobi here was too young. Pak had her own personal rule about that sort of thing and unless she was starving, he was safe. Although, she did wonder about his sudden craving for sweets; she wouldn’t be terribly surprised if there was a good reason for having the munchies, but that didn’t seem quite right. More likely, it was a product of youth and being willing to eat here was a result of having a teenage male’s cast iron stomach. Immortality was a great protection for that too.
“I wouldn’t say no to something chocolate, as long as it doesn’t look like its about to grow legs and walk off.”
“Well I seriously doubt anyone would be crazy enough to try to make you!”
Shrugging at the two for one comment, he studied his shoes and smirked, thinking of he and his sister’s last violent escapade.
“Aw, she was always the fighter growing up – I just sort of rolled with it unless she got into trouble.”
That was sort of close to the truth, if you didn’t count happy-slapping – it was really hard to get him angry and even harder to get him interested in a fight.
The hotchick further rattled his assumptions by taking him up on the offer of some food. Yeah, she definitely wasn’t ‘one of those girls.’ “Awesome, be-arr-be. Make yourself at home,” he said, gesturing to his laptop before springing out of his chair and tumbling, in his awkward too-tall walk, toward the counter. He kept anything he didn’t want other people to see on his desktop, knowing that he’d be using his laptop on some downright unsanitary networks, and she just didn’t look like the stealing type – he figured his stuff was safe for a minute.
Knowing it wasn’t every day that you met a cool chick with a sense of humor, he put some effort into picking out her treat, finally settling on a slice of cherry chocolate cheesecake as the safest option. Picking up the coveted brownie and a coke, he declined a membership card (twice) and headed back to the table.
“Oops, forgot forks!”
Setting down the goodies, he whirled around and headed over to the counter where coffee fixings and utensils were stored, returning promptly with two forks and an inch-thick stack of napkins. Falling back into his chair, he held out a fork, grinning.
“Your fork, madame.” His grin turned dorky as he continued. “So does this mean I get your name or do you have to try the cake first?”
“Well one or two, but they're buried somewhere in the Las Vegas desert.”
A wicked smile flickered across her face.
Well that was interesting, a young punk who wasn’t afraid to let a woman fight his battles for him. Pak wasn’t sure if she gave points or took points away for that. At least he was honest.
Grinning and shaking her head slightly at his use of chat lingo, she watched him wander off. OK he was cute in that gawky awkward sort of way, she could see where some one his own age would find him appealing. Lord, she was married by the time she was his age. Pak forcibly pushed those memories aside. She was doing a damned fine job of chilling out and she wanted to keep it that way.
Oh. Look. She’d been left alone with a computer. Must. Resist. Temptation. Or not. With just a seconds hesitation she let her hands fly over the keyboard sorting through directories, looking for back doors. She didn’t see anything of interest, there might have been something there but she’d need more time to find it and he was on his way back. Quick put everything back as she’d found it and resume looking cute and innocent.
“Cheesecake. You get brownie points for that.”
Her eyes danced as she made a really bad joke. It amused her, but it was –bad-.
Ostentatiously sampling the cake, she pondered for a minute.
“Pakpao. Nice to meet you Tobi.”
"Yes! I'm rackin' 'em up tonight!"
Man, you had to like a chick who could mess with you and knew it. Of course she tried the cake first, and of course she had to consider the matter carefully – she'd have baffled him all over again if she'd made it too easy. In the end, though, his wish had been granted.
"Cool name! Nice to meet you, too."
Wondering if he would have sounded more interesting had he introduced himself as Tobar, he tossed around the idea of bringing up his full name before rejecting the idea as stupid. Though he was becoming increasingly resigned to the ‘potential friend’ category, he found that he wasn’t even that bummed. What would he have done if she started giving off ‘interested’ signals anyway? ‘Hurr, wanna see my shrunken head collection?’ He found he preferred the sort of chick you could just take a big old bite of brownie in front of a lot more fun, and he proceeded to do just that, with gusto. A gulp of coke washed it down nicely, though he had the good sense to realize that they weren’t at the blenching stage just now and held back on any such impulses.
"So, you find anything interesting?" He gestured to his laptop, not sure if she had partaken of the offered web surfing in his absence. Though everything looked just as he left it, it was easy enough to bring up a new tab, and close it again. Teasing, he went on. "Or do I have to wait 'til I get home to find the Trojan?"
He was a sharp little bugger, either that or she just looked suspicious. Usually though people had to get to know her a bit before they relegated her to the ‘not to be trusted’ category. She let her eyes widen in apparent surprise.
“I would –never-.”
At least not to some one she’d just met, or with out a good reason, or with out having that –particular- flash drive on her. Oh,… now that she thought about it she did have that drive. Well maybe, if he got obnoxious, she could mess with him later.
Turning her attention back to her cake and doing her best innocent face added.
“Be that obvious.”
Now it wasn't often that Tobi rubbed two brain cells together and came up with an idea more complex than where to get his next meal, but as he pondered Pakpao's mischief streak and just how far it might run, he came up with a way to measure exactly that.
Leaning back in his chair, he grinned a little and looked her way.
“Man. I bet it would be -so- easy to push whatever we wanted through this network.” He chuckled a little. “What do you want to bet they haven't even updated their firewall since they bought it?”
She wondered if maybe that had been his goal from the beginning and she was a distraction. It took a seconds thought, but Pak decided she didn’t care. Now she wanted to know how far he could or would take it.
“What makes you think I’d know anything about that?”
She took another bite of her cake and mused as she chewed.
“But I’d say it’s a very safe bet they haven’t done much recently. Enough to stop the every day user and a few of the mid-grade tech savvy people. They’ve gotten better, but it’s by no means secure. Not that I’d know anything about that.”
And this time of night, most of the cashier/server types weren’t terribly alert to the users.
He picked the walnuts off the top of his brownie, eating them in a single handful while she laid it out for him. Picking up on her turns of phrase, he tried to similarly keep it subtle.
"So in theory, anyone could just come in, push something..." he pretended to consider "...not too destructive, but annoying, onto the server..." He fake pondered for another moment, knowing this was the tricky part. "And then, in theory, the responsible parties could, for example, go out to the movies, in a strictly non-date context, to kill some time and, like, watch a movie." That last part was said in a rush, with hands up to forestall objections. "And -then-, hypothetically, said parties could return and save their favorite cafe from the big bad hackers." And maybe access something interesting in the process, he mentally added.
"If, of course, anyone knew anything about that."
“So what I’m getting out of this is… I’m not worth a date?”
Not that she had been looking for one, she hadn’t been. But dang she still though she had the cute and appealing thing going on. If she hadn’t had the same face for the past 200 odd years she’d have thought she was starting to look her age.
“But other than that minor snag… and –purely- hypothetically… something a long those lines would be… possible.”
Her mood and professional ethics warred with each other. It would be fun, it could be damned fun. But the last thing she needed any one getting a hold of was that she was causing trouble, potentially destructive trouble, off the clock.
Oh, smooth, Tobi.
"Just meant...totally, totally worth a date...wow, I suck..." Giving a nervous laugh and pulling himself together, he raked his fingers through his hair and grinned. "Honestly I figured you were kind of out of my league." He beamed. "But hey, I'm totally fine calling it a date."
Not quite believing his good luck and wondering if this was all going to fall through, he proceeded quickly to phase two of his brilliant plan to take Pakpao to the movies - and also cause a little trouble.
"So," he went on with a casual air, opening up a notepad document and typing ideas as he spoke. "What do you want to see? I keep hearing Iron Man is good, haven't gotten around to that yet. Or maybe something a little more indie, we could check out one of the art houses."
On his computer screen there was now a short list of suggestions - not of movies, but of pranks of the remote desktop variety, ranging from a sound that went off every few minutes to bizarre errors popping up on the various networked computers. It wouldn't be too difficult to hack together a utility to run while they were gone.
"So what do you think? Anything sound good?"
Instead of thinking, she did laugh a little, not too much though.
“Out of your league? Really?”
Did being one of the most sought after prostitutes in Bangkok count as out of his league? Probably not. Whiz-bang programmer for Meridian might though. However, right now, he didn’t know that and she didn’t feel like enlightening him.
He did recover nicely, she had to give him that.
“I am –so- not up for indie tonight. Iron Man works for me.”
She let that slide almost absently as she leaned forward and perused his list of ideas. Goodness he came prepared, but not a single idea involved a screwdriver. Oh well you couldn’t have everything.
Although it was a bit curious how prepared he was, lord only knows what the kid would have gotten up to on his own.
“Hmmmmm…error messages do mess with people’s heads something fierce don’t they?”
Ironman being the movie of choice (score again!), he opened up a browser window and surfed to some show times at the theater up the Strip. "If we're quick we can catch Ironman in half an hour."
That might be cutting it a little fine, especially if they really wanted to get creative, but he worked better under pressure anyway.
"And yeah, funny about that - no one knows what they mean, but heck if they don't panic at the sight of one. Especially when they click okay and another message comes up...and another, and another..." He made a rolling gesture with his hands to illustrate his point. "Man, that's enough to drive anyone nuts!"
He looked thoughtful for a moment, and for once the expression was not entirely feigned. Hackers had a reputation for not playing well with others, and with good reason – there were so many pissing contests, proving your cred, whipping out your e-peen, that it got to be easier to go it alone. With Pakpao there was none of the bull – she hadn’t asked him to show off or talked trash or anything. Which could mean anything, but Tobi liked to think that she was just that sure of herself.
Well, only one way to find out.
“You’d need IPs to pull a stunt like that, though. And the right utility.”
There were a couple of ways they could get IPs, but the most preferable would obviously be remotely. And then there were multiple approaches to a utility that pushed a netsend to all the computers on the network in an endless loop – Tobi knew a few places to start but was willing to do whichever task Pakpao didn’t want.
“What do you think?”