Not switching to DTV
Join Date: May 2003
Location: just past the pot o' gold
Current Game: TrackMania Nations
The Fate of the Galaxy Hacker
The Fate of the Galaxy Hacker
Casey Vale awoke slowly, with the faint memory of having been shot with a stun blast from behind. Her whole body ached and her head was spinning... best not try at sitting up just yet. It took several moments for her head to clear enough and, though she still had a splitting headache, she managed to prop herself up against the nearest wall. Only then, she opened her eyes.
She was in a holding cell, which caused only momentary confusion. Slowly, the events before the stun blast came into focus. The planning and execution of the Galaxy Hacks, and the subsequent two weeks of the Empire hunting the Galaxy Hacker, the arrest, and being placed in a holding cell, awaiting a trial. A smile mixed with a grimace on Casey’s lips, amusement mixed with her pain. It had been a fun month, hadn’t it? She had no further time to ponder the events; the door on the other side of the little white room slid open.
“You’re awake,” the Imperial interrogator said, entering flanked by two Stormtroopers. Casey rolled her eyes and immediately regretted it, as it made the room spin.
“You knew that,” she croaked, her mouth dry from the length of time she’d been unconscious... and the stun blast. “Or you’d not be here now.”
The man gave her a tight-lipped smile. “Point taken. You know how this works.”
“Not that I’ve...” Casey began. She made an attempt at clearing her dry throat, and coughed. “Can I... water... please?”
With a nod, the interrogator stepped forward with a glass of water and Casey drank it gratefully.
“That’s better,” she said appreciatively. “Now, where was I? Oh, that’s right. Yeah, I know how this works, though I’ve never actually been through it before.”
“Why did you do it?” the man asked, squatting down to her eye level.
“What’s your name?” Casey asked curiously in return. With an odd smirk, the man shook his head.
“It doesn’t work that way,” he said. Casey mimicked his grin.
“Why not?” she needled. “You know my name.”
He laughed. “Half the galaxy knows your name. And what you’re famous for.”
Casey grinned. “So what’s the problem with one little hacker knowing your name? What are you famous for?”
“I’m famous for nothing,” the man replied. “And if you must insist, I’m not entirely opposed to confessing. My name is Jattic. Jattic Lukan.”
Casey smiled pleasantly. “Nice to meet you, Jattic Lukan. Ask your questions.”
“Why did you do it?” Jattic asked. Casey cocked her head curiously.
“Do what?” she asked, feigning innocence. Jattic frowned.
“Don’t play ignorant,” he said. “The Galaxy Hacks. Incom Corp., CEC, KDY, and all them? They all lost a massive amount of information. And then, there’s the shipping companies, the cruise lines, the military, and all them... losing star charts, coordinates, and whatnot. And the anti-Empire messages on all those viewscreens and holoprojectors... all comes down to a simple little question: why?”
“Can they prove without a doubt that I’m the Galaxy Hacker?” Casey demanded. “How much proof did they really dig up?”
“That’s the thing about the Empire,” Jattic said, standing once more. “We don’t need undeniable proof unless the Galaxy Hacker strikes again. Just answer the question, will you? It’ll make this easier on both of us.”
“It’s not an easy question,” Casey answered after a moment of thought. “Why? Better to ask ‘why not’, perhaps? But that doesn’t really have an easy answer either.”
“Did you know you’d get caught?” Jattic asked next, wondering for a moment if even Casey knew entirely why she pulled such an outrageous hacking job.
“Only if I wanted to be,” Casey said quickly. “Force knows, I had enough money to duck and run for the Outer Rim and keep on dodging the Imperial bloodhounds.”
“So you wanted to be caught?” Jattic was intrigued. “Why?”
“Did I say that?” Casey laughed. Jattic smiled faintly.
“You implied it. ‘Only if I wanted to be,’ you said. Well, you got caught, which implies you wanted to be. Why?”
“What is it you want to hear?” Casey asked him. “Some blatant lie about how it’s an easy way to expose myself as a hacker so the Empire can give me government hacking jobs? Some long monologue about how the Empire is wrong and this growing Rebel Alliance that people are starting to whisper about should overthrow it?” She snorted. “You’ll get none of that from me.”
Jattic nodded. “And what will I get?” Casey was silent and Jattic decided it was time to move on. He gestured to the Stormtroopers and they left him alone with Casey. “Your friend Sean wanted to see you.”
A smile of longing touched Casey’s lips and Jattic knew that Sean Casey meant something to Casey Vale. Meant a lot.
“He would,” she murmured. “Damned stubborn, that one. Before I went to my parents’ house to be ‘collected’, I sent him a message.”
“Told him what you were doing,” Jattic filled in. “Admitted the Galaxy Hacks were your doing.”
“Oh, he already knew that,” Casey chuckled. “Sean’s a smart one.”
“In school, your peers and some of your teachers called the two of you ‘Sean Casey Vale’, or ‘SCV’. You were very close. What happened? And more importantly, why shouldn’t we arrest Sean Casey as another suspect in the crime?”
“You mean, why should you let him go?” Casey shot back. “I know you’re already holding him.”
“Alright then,” Jattic allowed with a nod. “Why should we let him go?”
“Because he had nothing to do with it,” Casey replied evenly. “You guys know that, even. He’s got a job. Legit. Security consultant, you know? It’s partially by his efforts that you all made the connection that the Galaxy Hacker was me.” With an expression that bordered on frustration and guilt, the young woman added, “And he’s already suffered enough... what with me for a friend...”
“That bothers you,” Jattic observed. “Fascinating. You ran the most devastating hack in the galaxy to date and the emotional stress on Sean Casey of being your friend is what bothers you?”
Casey was silent, but Jattic could see tears welling up in her eyes. In an odd way, he felt sorry for her. But he had to shake that off. This girl had caused some serious damage to some major companies and they wanted blood. Their bloodlust was only slightly sated by the fact that all the information she’d taken had been returned just hours before her arrest.
“And your family?” Jattic pressed, hating himself for the fact that the interrogation had to go on. “You realize you’ve done a great deal to ruin your entire family’s reputation... your father, your mother, your brother.”
At that, Casey shot him a teary glare, and in a shaky voice she demanded, “What do you want from me? A confession? Do you want me to say that I was heartless enough that I didn’t think of them? That I was only thinking of my career and what I could or could not do?”
“So you thought of them,” Jattic cut in hurriedly. “I didn’t mean to suggest that you didn’t.”
Through her tears, Casey managed a smile. “You’re not like most interrogators.”
A faint smile from Jattic. “I’ve been in the business a long time. Long enough that they tend to let me do and say what I want. Most importantly right now, Casey, I’m an open ear.”
“I’m not much of a closed mouth, am I?” Casey choked out. Jattic crossed the room and sat next to her, in much the same manner as a friend might have done.
“What do you have to hide?” he asked. “You did something terrible. Then, you undid the damage, sent all the information back. Empire won’t execute you; they want to hire you... after you serve a total of twelve years in prison...”
“They know they can’t keep me in prison,” Casey groaned. Jattic nodded.
“That they do,” he conceded. He smiled faintly. “They held the trial without you there... an odd practice. I’m not even sure how that sits on a legal standpoint. Twelve years, you got. And you have to wear this...” He held out a slim silver band, “... on your upper arm. Left or right, you choose.”
Casey stared at the band. “And then what?”
“And then, you travel,” Jattic replied. “You travel with four guards and the armband. Like you said before, they can’t keep you in a prison. Hell, you’ve escaped from this holding cell three times already, haven’t you?”
Casey’s laughter was choked with sobs and Jattic put a comforting arm around her.
“I’ve signed on as one of your guards, Casey,” he said. “Like I said before, they pretty much let me do whatever I want. And one of these days, you’ll work up the courage to tell me exactly why you gave up friends, family, technology... everything you loved... traded it all for a prison sentence that you knew wouldn’t be spent in prison.”
He squeezed her shoulders and stood. “I’ll let you think on that, and in an hour, I’ll bring your other guards around to meet you. Max Lukan’s one of ‘em. My brother... a riot, you’ll love him. Katera Vincent, a friend of ours. She’s got to be the most unpredictable person you’ve ever met... and Garreth Tober. Don’t really know him, but we’ll keep an eye on him, make sure he’s cool, alright?”
Casey wiped the tears from her cheeks and stood. “Why are you telling me all this?”
Jattic laughed. “This is the fate of the Galaxy Hacker...you’re spending twelve years with four roommates,” he said. “Thought you might like to know something about your roommates. ‘Cuz that’s what we’ll be, Case. Roomies. Whatever you’re after in this imprisonment, count on us to make it happen, okay?” He grinned. “Be back in an hour.”
Casey watched him go, unsure of what she thought. She understood now why he was such a good interrogator. He’d broken through the barriers, got her crying, got her to admit without words that she’d been arrested willingly, that the Galaxy Hacks were just a piece of a greater puzzle. She’d come so near to telling him what she was after... and then he’d run off. In one second, Casey was cursing her own lack of fortitude, and in the next she couldn’t help but wonder how serious Jattic had been about his offer for help. She supposed she’d find out soon enough.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
One month later...
You’ve probably never received a letter actually written out by hand. That’s alright... this is the first I’ve ever done. It’s got an odd feel to it... not sure if I like it yet or not. Anyway, I hardly took on this chore to discuss the chore itself, did I? I’d better get straight to the point then.
Sean, I just want to tell you I’m sorry. I know this whole thing had to have been hard on you. After all, the Galaxy Hacks came out of the blue. I mean, I’d always joked about it, sure... but we both knew I never meant for the plan to be more than a private joke. Jattic (one of my guards) told me that you’ve been interrogated seven times since I got arrested and five in the two weeks before. You don’t deserve this, but I didn’t have a choice. One day, I hope you can understand that.
I’m not going to give you any details because then they’ll really get on your case. But just know that there’s a reason behind my actions. And it’s a damned good one. I know that’s not going to make you feel better... it doesn’t really even make me feel better. I just... it had to be said. Tell my parents and my brother I’m sorry. I am sorry, Sean.
All my love,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“You know, when I got that for you, I didn’t actually count on you using it,” Jattic remarked with a chuckle as Casey shut the notebook in which she’d been writing. It had been Casey’s birthday a couple of days earlier and he’d presented it to her then with a laugh, a grin, and a ‘Happy Birthday from all of us’. Casey shrugged and held up her left arm, the silver band plainly visible just below the end of her short sleeve.
“It’s my only source of thought outlet now,” she replied. “Can’t get on the tech thanks to this thing...”
“It’s temporary, Case,” Jattic offered comfortingly. “Though you’ll probably say it’s not temporary enough. Two years, max. Then, you’ll start getting supervised tech time.”
“Makes me feel loads better,” Casey muttered sarcastically. Jattic grinned and shook his head.
“Look at you!” he protested. “You’re like a sulking little kid. Come on, now. Cheer up... what were you writing, anyway?” He quickly added, "Not that I'm being nosy... just... you know..."
For a moment, Casey did not reply. She did know. Technically, Jattic was supposed to keep track of everything that went on, everything she said, everything she did. If he were really and truly taking his job seriously, he'd have demanded to read what she'd written. But Jattic wasn't like that. And neither were Max and Katera, and Garreth certainly wouldn't bother. Finally, Casey said, “Nothing... just a letter to a friend.”
Jattic smiled knowingly and nodded. “Will he ever see the letter?”
With a sad smile, Casey admitted the truth: