Gregory Stevens, a newly arrived student at Blackwood International College, mysteriously disappears from the elite private school. Erik Wilson must track him down without anyone knowing that they are hackers. With every clue that Erik discovers the lines become more and more blurred surrounding Gregory, and who he truly might be. The first clue he finds is a half-burned cryptic note that reads "Ric$40" written on top of Gregory's uniform in his dorm room. That same clue appears on Gregory's smartwatch as well. The realm of hacking knows his name and invites him to join in, and play.View More
Outside the car, the landscape glides by silently in the dark. Erick's cell phone breaks the silence. Private number, read the mobile screen."Erick, hello?" He listens. And then just push it to death."Who was that?" asked his mother tiredly."Someone from a newspaper."She sighed. Erick turned in his seat and looked at the car following them.His father. His face was barely visible in the dark. He turned back again. It is still a long way to Johannesburg. The car lights flow brightly across the tarmac.Lux est imago veritatisErick leaned his head against the passenger window. His tongue felt thick in his mouth."I'm not as solid or bullet-proof dead as I thought," he said softly.A hand on his shoulder. His mother's.Only now can he cry. For his father, and also for Daniel.The cell phone rings again. The journalist still hasn't gotten the message that he doesn't want to talk to her. "Just one thing please, Erick," he heard her say, "the guy the police are looking for—I have two na
Note: (odd & even-numbered chapters’ time spans – merge continue)This is the last I see of G-4ce. The panel van races down the street, around the square. Away!I walk slowly back to the guest house. Totally rattled. There are more people on the street now. They just look at me, at my broken face, and torn clothes. Blood. One woman wants to help, "Leave me!" I screamed, yanking my arm out of her hands.My mother is alone in the guest house room. She looked up from a magazine, and turned pale when she saw me, "Erick!""Where's dad?" I ask"What happened?""Dad. Where is he?" Harder."He went to look for cigarettes before he drove.""Row?""To Bergville. Doctor Paterson..."Of course. Suddenly I wonder if my father left all his business interests for my sake or if he came to help Doc."I have to go see him," I said and turned back to close the door."You can't! Not like that. My child, what is the matter with you?" Panic in my mother's eyes. Only now I think about it: how will mother ta
Note: (odd & even-numbered chapters’ time spans – merge continue)On Wednesday evening, about two weeks after Gregory and I were in the Blackwood memorial museum, I crack the online store's site, get the administrator password and penetrate their server. Client names, home addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, login codes and passwords. And yes, credit card numbers.Gregory just smiled when I gave it to him. Quiet and withdrawn.I'm already in bed when I get a message on my cell phone. Probably Isabella again, I think. I limp across the cold floor to get the mobile phone on the desk and then quickly jump back into bed.It's an MMS then. And it comes from GregoryA picture of a white hat...It was the night before he disappeared.
Note: (odd & even-numbered chapters’ time spans – merge in this chapter)The reflection in the glass door of the gallery. "Gregory!""Didn't think you'd see me again, huh?"I swing around. Walk closer to grab him. Relief. "Is that genuinely you?"But Gregory only lifts one arm, presses against my chest, and pushes me away. a crooked smile drew around his mouth."Your hair...Blonde? And the goatee?" I want to take his hand away, but he pulls it back hard. "Where have you been? The whole world is looking for you!""Mmm... know, I saw my food on Police File. Never thought I'd end up there.""But if you saw it, why—""What's this? Twenty questions? Leave it. I'm in a hurry: just came to finish something.That's what fear feels like Fire flashes through your body, every nerve jolt awake, adrenaline throws your mind into overdrive, your eyes open, your breathing stops and your chest cavity squeezes. And you hear it - your own breathing stops and your sinuses squeeze. And you hear it - your
Note: This is a past-day event, (continuation of even-numbered chapters time span: 2,4,6, etc.)"I've never been here," said Gregory. It's a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of winter. The last bell rang. I'm in a hurry, want to get to the hostel. This afternoon there is another rugby practice.Gregory stopped me with his arm just as I was about to run. He looked up at the two-story building in front of us. We've walked past this a thousand times, but it's one of those places you never see again.It's right there. Just another college building."It's the Blackwood Memorial Museum," I said."Let's go in.""I have to get moving.""Come on, Erick," His eyes darkened. "We'll walk through soon."A hand wraps around my throat. I look at the museum. Maybe I overlooked it on purpose at other times, because the memories are waiting inside. Gregory is already up the stairs, looking back at me as he stands in the doorway. "Come now!"Daniel.I follow Entangled in my own thoughts.Step by step bac
Note: This is a present-day event, (continuation of odd-numbered time-span: 1,3, etc.)"Come along," said Sergeant McCallister."Where to?""The local precinct. The community service centre."I frown."The police station, Erick.""Are you arresting me?""No. You must come and make a statement." Sergeant McCallister was right, it was going to be a long day.A little while later I get into the back of the police car. The classes are changing. Curious eyes stare at me. They can think about what they want.The asphalt road on which we stop in front of the police station is crumbling against the curb. A fence about four meters high spans the building. Every few steps there is a lamppost that would illuminate the fence in the dark. On the pale winter grass in front of the sandstone building with the green are two flagpoles. On the left hangs the national flag, on the right the police flag.The police offices are clean, but the furniture is old. In the office where we sit, there is a single
Note: This is a past-day event, (continuation of even-numbered time-span: 2,4,6, etc.)The mother of all challenges, is what Gregory calls it.Hack the website of an online shopping group. Without any help. Get personal information of buyers, addresses, names, phone numbers, email addresses. Credit card numbers deserve extra kudos."No, I’m not doing it," I say. "We're going too far now, Gregory.""Are you scared?""No, it's just...I can't.""Can't? Or won't?" His attitude defiantly. Typical Daniel liked when he came up with a new extreme sport."Okay, won’t," I tell myself it's the right thing to do. I should have stopped earlier. "What if I get caught?""I taught you what to do. No one will know. You're not going to do anything with the info. White hat, remember.?""I don't know. It's too dangerous.""What could be so dangerous? You hack the site, poke around in a few scripts, and see if you can get to a mainframe. A database. That's all.""No." Definitely."So, what you're really t
Note: This is a present-day event, (continuation of odd-numbered time-span: 1,3,5, etc.)"I see I was right then," said the man there in front of the computer."Even if you no longer have your laptop, you would still continue with your hacking."He turned in the chair and looked up. Straight to me.It's not Doc. It's Sergeant McCallister. He looks tired. "I've been watching you all evening. I wonder what the inspector is going to say now? She thought you had a big enough scare. Said I was going to waste my time. But look now."I swallow, my throat is dry. The pack of ream paper in my hands willy-nilly slip out between my fingers."What is all this stuff?" asked Sergeant McCallister.There is no way out. No sweet talk will help. I have to tell him about Doc."There's something..." The words struggled to get over my dry tongue."Speak louder, Erick, I can't hear you!"I just want to start over when Sergeant McCallister reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. It didn't rin
Note: This is a past-day event, (continuation of odd-numbered time-span: 1,3,5, etc.)Autumn turns into winter. The trees are stripped bare and in the morning the mountain is a black stone giant that hugs the school.It's Saturday night. Blackwood kicked ass with the rugby and there is reason to celebrate. Residence barbecue. There is a crazy electric atmosphere at the school. Loud music blares through the hostels all afternoon.The dormitory father has heard that there are some guys planning to smuggle in liquor and the Student Council is supposed to be on high alert.The chefs are planning a feast. Doc's instruction. Long-covered tables stand under the trees. Snacks, soft drinks and fruit juices. A bar where a bartender mixes mocktails.I call Isabella. "Are you going out tonight?""Will see what Clarissa-they say. Maybe we'll chill tonight at the one with DVDs."The conversation is the same as pretty much any other we've had before."Love you, Erick," she finally said."Same."I br
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