“No, he hasn’t gotten here yet Heather.” I was on the phone with Heather, waiting for Jenkins to get to my house. I didn’t live that far from Wonder-Tech and according to her, Jenkins left over an hour ago.
She was annoyed. “Phil is so useless. I still don’t understand why we don’t fire his ass over the phone prank he pulled.”
Earlier in the day me, John, and Heather had a tele-conference about the fake phone prototype Jenkins had submitted. Heather represented Legal and they wanted him gone. John overruled them saying it showed initiative in trying to keep the higher up’s (mainly him) honest. What she didn’t know was that Jenkins was our link to The Aces.
I was about to try and calm her down when a knock came at my door. “Hey Heather, he’s here. Let me go and I’ll call you later.”
“Ugh, it’s about time. I’ll talk to you later.”
I put my phone down on my dresser and pushed myself out of bed. It was a small apartment so it didn’t take long to stumble over to the door and open. “Hey Phil.”
“Jericho…” He looked a tad bit scared. “How are you feeling?”
“Like shit Phil, like shit. But you’re not here to ask me about that are you?”
He came inside and I closed the door. “I told Spades you wouldn’t trust me after what happened.”
It was all coming out in the open. “If you’re here to kill me, just get it over with. I don’t want to suffer again like I did Saturday night.”
“I’m not here to kill you Jericho.” The thought of that seemed to make him queasy. “I’m here to recruit you.”
“What?” That was genuine shock. I was expecting to have to work a lot harder to get to this point. “After trying to kill me and accusing me of being The Dark Lion, you’re here to recruit me?”
“Spades wants me to send his apologies about the misunderstanding in the parking lot. It was mostly my fault due to my interpretation on the encryptions. I really thought you were The Dark Lion.”
“Well I’m not and I don’t know who is. If someone is using my encryptions for their own use…”
He stopped me. “John Wonderton is The Dark Lion. An inside source called us shortly after we left the parking lot Saturday evening. Afterwards, I was able to confirm it with some hacking into his accounts.”
I did my very best to look stunned. “Our boss? You’re referring to the same John Wonderton who can’t even set up his own email?”
Jenkins took a seat. “He’s played all of us Jericho. He’s been using your skills to moonlight as a vigilante. Worst part, what good is he actually doing the city?”
“I don’t follow the news all that much. I just know the other day he killed The Ace called Diamonds in a street fight. It was all over the TV, including the police chief basically putting a bounty on your heads.”
“Grimes is just as corrupt as the Deputy Mayor who got himself fried at the hospital. The man goes through two or three prostitutes a week.”
A short intake of air got his attention. “Are you guys in league with The Negative Man?”
“No, but with him being back, it’s only a matter of time he will seek us out and help.” He laughed to himself. “We know the long history between The Dark Lion and The Negative Man. Spades believes if we can get him so hyped on his old enemy, it’ll be easier for us to do as we please.”
So Diamonds proclamation that The Negative Man would rise again was all a ruse. Then just by coincidence… “Why are you telling me this?”
“We need a fourth member. Even though you’re not a super by any stretch, you got a lot of talent. Spades would like to meet you and offer you the Diamonds mask, but only after a test.”
Here it was, my time to shine. “What kind of test?”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a flash drive. “Contained on here is a virus that when uploaded onto the Wonder-Tech network will start skimming off pennies from each account. Over the course of a few weeks, that would amount to thousands of dollars. Not a lot, but we want to start off with something small.”
I laughed at this. “Do you want me to steal a red stapler too?”
“Be serious for a second Jericho. Just because it’s an old trick, doesn’t mean it’s not a good one.”
Letting go another wisecrack about originality, “With your ability to merge with a computer, couldn’t you do it?”
“There was never a firewall I couldn’t break through until I came in contact with yours. You’ll have to rewrite the program on the drive, but I figured the architect could undue his own work.”
I looked down at the flash drive. It was clear, but it had blue wiring that seemed to glow in my hand. “And if I do this, Spades will meet with me? And he won’t try to kill me again?”
“No Jericho, do this and we will reward you in ways you can’t imagine. Your life will become something of your own choosing, not being a slave to a boss who hides his true self.”
“Give me a day or two to figure this out. When you see me come to the Wonder-Tech Tower, you’ll know I’ve figured it out.”
He clapped his hands together. “Perfect! I’ll let Spades know.” He shot off a quick text before getting up. “I knew we could count on you Jericho. Welcome to the team, unofficially of course.”
We shook hands and I watched Jenkins get into his car and leave before I did anything. Once in the clear, I went back to my desktop, the place I did my best hacking work.
The program was a worm, designed to hide in plain sight and basically eat a few pennies here or there as accounts were updated. With the amount of funds coming in to Wonder-Tech daily, no one would be none the wiser.
I broke the program down to its barest form. The code it had been written with almost felt organic. Part of me wondered as I began to re-write it if I was dealing with a part of Jenkins mind. The fact he could merge with computers and pull information so effortlessly wasn’t lost on me.
My computer was so firewalled that even if this was part of Jenkins and he tried anything, he’d never get anywhere. On a hunch, I did run a quick system scan and found a sleeper program that tried to break my initial firewall. It never even got close before my programs destroyed it into oblivion. “Nice try Jenkins.”
After that, the code stayed put, allowing me to work on it free and clear. After about an hour of reworking and adding my own protocols to the program, it was ready for use. I took the drive out and recapped it. With the first hurdle cleared, it was time to confront the second.
I went back to my tablet and opened a secured line to DL’s phone. His face popped up. “Jericho, has Jenkins left?”
“Yeah, he came over and pitched me to join The Aces. If I complete one task, Spades wants me to take over as Diamonds.”
I saw from the background he got up. A heard the doors open that led to the secret computer lab. “What task does he want you to do?”
“I have a program, one that I already rewrote to work properly, and it’s designed to steal money from Wonder-Tech.”
He gave a short, sharp laugh. “They’re trying to steal my money? How pathetic.”
I continued on. “All I have to do is put the flash drive on one of the network linked computers and it’ll do the rest. I guess once The Aces start getting deposits, they’ll reach out to me.”
“How soon can you get in here and get on their good side?”
The excitement of the mission had rendered the pain almost nonexistent. “If I can convince Heather I’m fine, I’ll get it uploaded tomorrow when I come in.”
He dropped out of view for a second, but when his face came back, John Wonderton was gone and The Dark Lion was staring back at me. “We all have our missions for tonight it seems. You make sure that girl thinks you’re the most miraculous healer alive.”
“Will do.” Curiosity about his mission crept up. “What’re you doing tonight?”
“Remember our conversation about supply and demand? Tonight, the supply of thugs is going to go down by a lot.” He flashed an evil grin before cutting off.
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